Like every year, before the crackers and festive activities of Diwali, we see the festive occasion of joyous filmmakers and film buffs rejoicing the week of the emergence of domestic and international cinema in Mumbai. Its that time of the year when the average common viewer can mingle with other unknown film buffs in ques and share their expertise and viewers on a particular film or topic openly – with the balance of absorbing knowledge with a touch of networking.
Amongst the selection every year – MAMI celebrates films that may never see the light of the commercial Indian screen and some which do not get a generated OTT presentation. MAMI gives the platform for the new generation of Filmmakers from all around the world showcasing fresh talent from the heartbeat of India to the citylights of the Metropolis.
The opening film this year – which was quite surprising was Malayalam film Moothon which must be first that an opening film was a non-Hindi film. The closing film – quite surprising again was Sandh Ki Aankh, surprising because the commercial release was one day after the closing ceremony – so it wasn’t a big miss for the delegates.
So lets take a look at some of the films which I saw, some recommendations (films I didn’t not see but heard about from fellow delegates will be featured in the honourable mention section)
One of the most talked about films at the festival, this Assamese film which is presented by Anurag Kashyap tells a story between a young meat-loving student and a married doctor in which they bond over their fascination of meat – the twist of the film takes a drastic turn for the worse for both when their fascination for food goes overboard. The film got a complete mix reaction at the screenings with some people either loving it and making others vomit – personally it didn’t really suit my ‘taste buds’ and did sense a little discomfort, nevertheless everyone can give it one taste – I mean one try atleast.
Roam Rome Mein (Hindi/English/Italian)
Tannistha Chatterjee makes her directional debut with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead – about the brother’s quest for his missing sister in Rome, as people called the film ‘an exploration of feminism in modern India through the male gaze’. Exceptionally shot in Rome, the film brings across a lot of mix emotions but also keeping intact the suspense till the last frame. Many at the screening were a little confused going the title thinking it maybe a Rom-Com, but no actually it’s a semi-physiological drama that’s speaks on tones of Modern Indian Culture crossing over to the Western World. Would be interesting to see how people react when it commercially releases – recommended.
A Thing of Magic (Marathi)
This one was an interesting one – kept in a similar zone as the famous Village Rockstars, tells a story about a village and its connection towards cinema. Two girls become fascinated with the idea of 3D Cinema after a villager tells his experience and gifts the two a pair of 3D Glasses. The film speaks about how the village combine this art of films to magic – for them in which they believe works wonders but in the possible form of luck. Simple, sweet and innocent is way to explain the film – made by a group of young dedicated filmmakers – proves how a simple film can be larger than life. Rima Das also being present at the festival showed praise towards the film.
The Illegal (Hindi/English)
Danny Renzu’s tale about a young filmmaker wanting to study in America, explores the hardship and struggles of Indian citizens living abroad trying to achieve their dream. Sooraj Sharma playing the protagonist, the film shows a detailed struggle of an ambitious achiever who battles with daily struggles with his illegal immigrant tag as well dealing with his family back at home realising the sacrifices he has made. An eye opening film for many – showing how its not that easy to be established abroad. Renzu’s direction and Sharma’s performance are the highlights of the feature.
You Will Die At Twenty (Arabic)
Just after being born, Muzamil’s parents are told their child will not see a day after the age of 20 leading to his father leaving the village because of the curse, the rest of the film shows the life of Muzamil just before reaching 20. He befriends an elderly village outsider, who tells the real value of life and how he should spend his day not in gloom but in joy. The film is impressively shot and does showcase the root of villages in Egypt – an interesting watch being a new viewer to Arabic cinema.
Midnight Traveller (Farsi)
Fun fact – but the entire film was shot on three mobile phones! A documentary about an Afghanistani married couple, both documentary filmmakers, documenting their real life tragedy after they receive a threat from the Taliban and have to leave their home seeking asylum in different countries. The film covers their travel and hardship in finding a roof over their head and food for their children – but the film is not told in a pessimistic or serious fashion but actually documents the family’s time during their struggle. The film truly is must watch for everyone.
Hail, Satan? (English)
Did you know that there is religion called Satanism? Quite a recent made religion actually and one would think it’s connected to evil and devil worshipping? Devil worshipping yes – and evil no. The purpose of the religion being to prove to the world that Satan is misunderstood as his portrayal of evil was only made by Christianity but Satan actually wants equality and rights for the common man. The documentary speaks how the religion is trying to get a stance in the world while being beaten down by Christian obeying countries like America.
Hairstylist Sapna Moti Bhavnani directional debut brings a documentary about lost Sindh, attempting to get together with her roots which see feels are almost on the verge of being lost – she explores the true essence of Sindh and what it was and what it stood for before the partition of India. Bringing together a lot of people from Sindh who currently stay in Mumbai post the partition, the documentary explores how different Sindh was to traditional India or Pakistan we currently know. Told in a very interesting narrative manner – the film forms an avant-garde style in the form of history lesson well told.
A Son (Arabic/French)
During a family trip, a child shot by terrorists leading to his parents rushing him to hospital in hopes of his survival. The twist leads in the story when the child being in lead of blood begins to the raise the question about who are his biological parents, leading to tension between the couple while the child is in the last few hours to be saved. An interesting take on parent’s and parenting which the film purpose is highlight the difference between the two.
Slow Burn aka Ranj (Punjabi)
Sons of farmers in the Punjab sector are aware that farming doesn’t have a prosperous future for the current generation – their future is the midst of the city. The film deals with the migrants from Punjab moving to the bigger cities to find work for their families only to find that they themselves getting lost in translation and lost in the fog of the capital city. This off-beat Punjabi film deals with the real issues not just in Punjab but the issues that the current generation around the country are suffering.
A man’s obsession with a designer deerskin leads him to travelling solo, leaving behind his world and family for the jacket – later which the jacket becomes his alter ego. The jacket slowly taking over the mind, makes the man do some of the most bizarre things one can imagine – to the extent of murder. Selected at Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the comedy film has an essence of the Tarantino meets Kubrick feel – merging humour to brutality baring sense to the plot – which marks where Deerskin actually finds its niche in.
Shut Up Sona (Hindi/English)
Singer Sona Mohapatra has a problem, creating controversies but also making a regular practice in raising her voice where needed. The documentary follows Sona’s recent controversies and its backlash but also her battle with the Hindi Music Industry and the prejudice system it has towards women – where she refuses to ‘shut up’. The documentary ticks the boxes in being informative of the history of Women singers in the Indian society but also thought-provoking mixed in with the candid humour of Mohapatra which brings the dose of entertainment. One of the better documentaries from India this year.
The Kingmaker (English)
The politics and the current situation of the Philippines, a documentary that discovers most famously extravagant women in recent history: Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines. When Marcos and her husband, Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, were driven into exile in the United States in 1986, Imelda left behind a stash of more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. And that might be the only thing a lot of people know about her. But the family bounced back to power taking the practice into power of helping the people – but within the nexus of the family its darker than it seems.
About generations of a closely-knit, humorous community of sugarcane labourers who have been migrating yearly in search of work, a satire take on the struggles of farmers who besides educating their children eventually get lead into the vicious farming cycle in which they return home to continue the family legacy of farming. Entertaining yet engaging in narrative with a strong yet a strong disturbing end.
Sandh Ki Aankh (Hindi)
The two shooter Daadis from Uttar Pradesh who won Gold on many occasions on a national level where refused to represent India internationally thanks to their respective husbands and the male chauvinist society they belong to – leading them to train their children to take the game further. Performances are strong – with Bhumi Pednekar stealing the show by far but only issue the is the make up – like really? People calling them thaiji seem elder! Edit could have been tighter but overall not a bad watch. Certainly one will see echoes of Dangal.