Films to look out for at 20th MAMI Film Festival: Birds of Passage, Mehsampur, Blackkklansman, Bulbul Can Sing

Mihir Fadnavis

Oct 23, 2018 15:51:59 IST

If you’re a filmy person this is a strange time to be attending the Mumbai Film Festival. With the long overdue #MeToo movement having consequences of some of its board members being purged, to the controversial decisions of canceling some films and not others, and a general cloud of uncertainty and complicity within the industry, the 2018 edition of the festival is sure going to create a few awkward conversations.

However, there's good news for film geeks: the MAMI lineup this year is incredibly exciting. The festival runs from 25 October to 1 November. To help out with an itinerary amid a large schedule of films, we've listed out some titles worth camping overnight in the lines for:

 Films to look out for at 20th MAMI Film Festival: Birds of Passage, Mehsampur, Blackkklansman, Bulbul Can Sing

Clockwise from top left: Stills from Birds of Passage, Blackkklansman, Mehsampur and Bulbul Can Sing

Birds of Passage

Three years ago Colombian director Ciro Guerra made Embrace of the Serpent, a hallucinogenic horror thriller in vein of Apocalypse Now, which was also the best film of that year. So naturally a follow up to such high quality filmmaking would be something to be very excited about. Birds of Passage is a cartel thriller drama, introducing us to the real life Wayyuu family that spearheaded the Colombian drug trade in the '60s and '70s, and is Colombia’s entry to the 91st Oscars.

In Fabric

Peter Strickland is becoming a go to genre filmmaker with his flair for putting the absurd, the horrific and the funny together in classy, luxurious looking stories. His latest is a peculiar horror romance that follows a mysterious costume that has adverse affects on anyone who wears it. If you’re in for a film about a killer dress you might want to line up outside the halls for this one. Make sure you watch Strickland’s amazing The Berberian Sound Studio first, though.

Thunder Road 

Two years ago Jim Cummins sold his wedding rings to fund, write, star and direct a short film called Thunder Road. The effort paid off because the short became an internet phenomenon of sorts, with critics calling it a masterpiece, no less. Cummings turns the short into a feature now, and it won the Grand Jury prize at SXSW earlier this year. It looks like we have a talented Tommy Wissau on our hands.


Based on Murakami’s short story of the same name, this South Korean film by Lee Chang Dong (Secret Sunshine) is a mystery drama that follows three people whose lives intersect at a critical moment in their lives. The film has received widespread acclaim since its premier at Cannes and is South Korea’s official entry to the Academy awards.

High Life

Robert Pattinson continues to impress with his post Twilight choice of films – this time he stars in French director Claire Denis’ science fiction drama, her first English language film. The story follows a bunch of convicts aboard a space ship in search of alternative fuels, but unbeknownst to them they might be part of a much darker mission. Strap on, because the film received some rave reviews at Toronto earlier this year.

3 Faces

How Jafar Panahi manages to make films so often and of consistently such high quality is a mystery, but that his latest is playing at MAMI is a cause for celebration. The film won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes earlier this year and the meta story features Panahi playing himself teaming up with actress Behnaz Jafari (who also plays herself) to find a missing girl.

And Breathe Normally

A drama from Iceland by Isold Uggadottir, the film clambers social realist themes as we follow the life of a single mother who befriends an asylum seeker from Africa. The film has been compared to the works of the Dardenne brothers, so we should expect some gripping drama juxtaposed to grim Icelandic locales.

Madeline's Madeline 

Josephine Decker’s stab into experimental cinema mashes together art, reality, dreams and nightmares into a hard to decipher challenging head trip – basically the best kind of cinema to watch at a festival.


With immigration in Europe being such a clichéd cinematic topic in the festival circuit, Swedish director Ali Abbassi brings a new way to explore the subject with fable-like fantasy elements and a metaphorical ‘monster’ at the center of it. The film is based on a story by John Ajvide Lindqvist who also wrote the masterwork Let the Right One In, so you know what to expect.


We’ve seen countless Iranian films surrounding the miserable sociopolitical repercussions of a divorce in the country, so a ‘lighthearted’ and offbeat comedy on the same subject could be a window into something new. The film is directorial debut of writer Alireza Motamedi who also plays the titular character.

Some of the prestige titles at the fest include:

- Alfonso Cuaron’s much acclaimed and talked about personal project Roma,

- Steve McQueen’s thriller Widows, which serves as the closing film of the fest,

- Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman, a dark comedy in the vein of Get Out,

- The Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs which also happens to be their first foray into Netflix,

- Pawel Paklikowski’s 1950’s romantic drama Cold War,

- Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s newest dramatic philosophical epic The Wild Pear Tree,

- Hong Sang Soo’s new stab at black-and-white, coffee-and-conversation filmmaking Grass,

- Zhang Yimou’s Shadow, his purported return to form with another swords and costumes period drama thriller,

- And Gaspar Noe’s new mad scientist experiment – a horror film this time with some sex – wisely named Climax.

On the Indian side of things, the films to look out for are The Gold-Laden Sheep And The Sacred Mountain by Ridham Janve, a Pahari language film that chronicles a shepherd on a metaphysical adventure; national Film Award-winning director Rima Das’s third feature Bulbul Can Sing; Vasan Bala's Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota; and Kabir Chowdhry’s long gestating Mehsampur, a trippy and bizarre mockumentary on the Punjabi folk singer Chamkila.

Updated Date: Oct 23, 2018 20:01:57 IST