A film festival is like life itself. Too much is packed in a short span of time. There is a mad rush to get as much as we can, and are limited only by our own constrains of body and spirit. There are lots of hits and misses, depending on the choices we make. And in spite of all this we can only have a limited slice of this gigantic pie - it is all over before we could realize it.
"This time they do not have such a good collection of movies." You can often wonder this yourself, if not this being a common complain among the delegates. The truth is, only the most well-informed of cinephiles can be sure of something like this. Out of close to 200 films screened, a person can practically watch a maximum of 35-40. What if he was struck by the worst of luck and those were actually the weakest films of the festival? His complain, though true from his own perspective, would still not be relevant as he missed 160 other films. How can one tell? How much can we know enough to judge something as enormous as this?
My first experience was Pune 2008. Watched 17 films in four days and was extremely satisfied, in spite of some poor bets. I still have that catalogue. And today I regret not having watched "Cries and Whispers", "Red Desert", "Bhuvan Shome", "Devi", and "M" that were screened there. Also, there was a retrospective on Pedro Almodovar. Back then I was not aware of his merits, neither of Bergman or Antonioni or Lang. What would have been my reaction to that impressive line-up had I known cinema a little better? It is only in retrospection that I can see what I missed. The impression of an edition of a festival ultimately depends on the movies you choose to watch, which is also the most fascinating and important aspect of it.
I do not want to know the plot. I choose movies by researching, and picking the ones that have been awarded at other festivals during the past one year. Also, I choose filmmakers whose previous works have impressed me. I also have very interesting experience with Hungarian and Turkish films and am a little biased towards them while making my choices. But the most important thing is - I do not want to miss a film or a filmmaker who has earned a reputation over the decades and is now celebrated the world over. Hence, I did not miss the films by the Japanese masters this time; neither did I miss 'The Exorcist' or 'Khandahar'. Also, I made sure to watch the latest films by Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, and Abbas Kiarostami. And since I mixed movies - classics and fresh, and filmmakers - legends and first-timers, I had a very wholesome experience.
If you were unsatisfied, you can just say: “I wasn't very lucky”. And hope for a better experience next time. Unlike life, thankfully, there is a next chance in this. I am more than satisfied. Thanks to the makers for all the great films, to my bad luck for all the not-so-good ones, and to this great carnival that has made me alive again with the hope and the inspiration to do some good work. Meanwhile, the wait for MAMI 2011 has begun...