November 12, 2016

Mumbai 2016: Epilogue

245 movies in eight weeks, eight MAMI weeks, since 2009. With an average of more than thirty movies every festival, it always leaves me exhausted. Despite all the inspiration and humility that one goes through after watching some great movies from around the world, the mind and the body are unable to start creating something anytime soon.

This time, I made sure that I took it easy during the last two days and hence got to work the very next morning. And until today I could not find time to write the closing overview of my experience of the festival this year. But finally, here it is (click on the movie titles to watch the respective trailers):

Among the movies that I could not watch, the most impressive ones, apparently, were:
  • 'Apprentice': Singapore's official entry for the Oscars this year, it looks like a powerful drama dealing with death and redemption.
  • 'Donald Cried': The new American indie comedy, written and directed by Kris Avedisian who also plays the title character. 
  • 'Don't Call Me Son': From the director of the immensely entertaining 'The Second Mother', this Brazilian film definitely promises of another universally appealing film that can make us laugh and cry. Too bad I missed this.
  • 'Hounds of Love': I could not make out much from the trailer but this film was received really well by the festival audience.
  • 'My Mother's Wound': Why did I miss this? What a trailer! And this has to be a powerful, unforgettable story.
I have divided my top movies into three categories for recommendation:

A. Fairly accessible and well-done movies that should be watched by any movie-buff:
  • 'Clash': Perhaps a tricky recommendation for the universal audience. But what the heck! Let us trust them with this and see how they react to it. A war drama. Unique for its setting entirely inside a van.
  • 'Goodbye Berlin': A definite crowd-pleaser. Two teenaged boys. One road trip. Adventure. Nice music. Smart treatment. Coming-of-age.
  • 'My Life as a Zucchini': A simple and sweet animation film. Watch it for the effortless smile it induces. And then call your friends and loved ones for being there in your lives.
  • 'The Salesman': A seriously good story and a powerful drama. Watch it when in mood for something solid and gripping.
  • 'Under the Shadow': A brilliant horror film. If you love this genre, watch this movie that proves there is still a lot of scope of originality despite staying within the confines of the genre.
B. Beautiful movies that may not appeal to those who have never experienced world cinema:
  • 'Death in Sarajevo': I am not sure if I am the only person who loved this movie or there are more like me. But I really, really liked it. A drama set over a few hours in a hotel on a historic day, it tells stories of several characters connected by fate. A story as much of individual struggles as a nation's.
  • 'I, Daniel Blake': The impact of this seemingly simple film is enormous despite a not-so-fresh story. The masterful direction and truthful performances make it entertaining, despite its sharp and pessimistic world-view. A sad delight!
  • 'The Red Turtle': An 80-minute silent animation film, it may be one of the simplest you have seen. And yet it is complex. Not being able to understand it completely may frustrate you, but allow it to act on you like a poignant melody and it will cleanse you from within. I wish you could watch it on big screen.
  • 'Swiss Army Man': Honestly, I was quite shocked by the audacity of this film and hence could not enjoy it as much as I should have. But yes, despite being an American film, it is so original while dealing with very universal themes that you almost feel what the audiences in the late 90s might have felt on watching 'The Truman Show'.
  • 'The Untamed': Watch it for its unforgettable shock-value, like every Escalante film. And watch it for its fresh take on infidelity. We need more films like these that use sci-fi in the most original ways. 
  • 'The Wailing': Is this South Korea's answer to 'Rosemary's Baby'? Definitely one of the best horror films I have seen, it does not shock you with any gimmick in any of the scenes. Rather it suffocates you and strangulates you and leaves you haunted forever.
C. Movies which are supreme cinematic achievements but can be really difficult to watch:
  • 'Endless Poetry': If you can sit through it, this films does, as someone rightly remarked, all that cinema can do. It entertains you, pleases your senses in the most extra-ordinary ways, philosophizes and inspires, innovates and indulges, leaves room for interpretation, and makes you feel like revisiting it again. 
  • 'The Land of the Enlightened': Dabbling between documentary and drama, this is a lyrical film painstakingly created over years. I don't know if a person needs to achieve anything else in his life after having made a film like this. This film is reflects the pain Afghanistan has endured and showcases the beauty that land could have had.
  • 'Paradise': Another film set during the Second World War, telling us accounts of Nazis and Jews. Another film in black and white, using the 4:3 aspect ratio. I might have missed it if I knew these about it. But I didn't and 'Paradise' might just be the greatest film I saw at this year's festival.
  • 'The Woman Who Left': Watching this four-hour long and really slow film can be a very tough task. It does everything we avoid while telling stories on film and its design might appear distancing and alienating. And yet it creates some remarkable moments that affect you in the purest of ways. For the true film-buff only.

Mumbai 2016, Day 7: A Different Final Day

The seventh day of the festival was on 27th of October. But I could not post this blog then or any sooner than today due to unavoidable circumstances. Here is a brief description of the movies I got to watch on the final day:

If I don't count the half an hour long experimental film 'Light Music' from yesterday, my final score that this festival is among my lowest. On an average I manage to watch 31 films during this festival week that I have attended for the eighth consecutive year now. But this year my score is 28. 

One of the biggest reasons for that is the fact that I have to start working from the very next morning and hence I did not push myself during the last two days to watch more than three full films. On the final day, I returned home for a nap in the afternoon and then went back for the last two movies and hence missed at least one movie - a cost I decided to pay for the bigger picture. Hope cinema gods will understand that and forgive me :)

'Dust' (2016/ Turkey-Afghanistan) by Gozde Kural: A moving two-hour drama about a Turkish woman's trip to Afghanistan to fulfill her dead mother's wish only to discover the horrors of her family's past.

'Endless Poetry' (2016/ Chile-France) by Alejandro Jodorowsky: Easily among my top three movies of this festival and also, perhaps, of this year. It is indulgent and it is beautiful. But it is also moving, and very, very entertaining. What an experience!

'Barakah Meets Barakah' (2016/ Saudi Arabia) by Mahmoud Sabbagh: A light and fun film to close the festival, it is a romantic-comedy about two lovers with the same name, trying to date despite the strict the laws of their land. With this, I have ended up watching the official submission of thirteen countries for the Foreign-Language Oscar this year.

Mumbai 2016, Day 6: The Form

The sixth day of the festival was on 26th of October. But I could not post this blog then or any sooner than today due to unavoidable circumstances. Here is a brief description of the movies I got to watch that day:

  • The Woman Who Left (2016/ Philippines) by Lav Diaz: A four-hour drama in black and white. Winner of Golden Lion at Venice this year. 

Light Music (1975/ UK) by Lis Rhodes: A two-screen projection of light and sound with fog. An iconic half an hour experiment. One of the most unique things I have seen. But valuable only for academic and formal reasons.

Also watched the first thirty minutes of the ten-hour long epic by Lav Diaz - 'Evolution of a Filipino Family' (2004/ Philippines). So, well, this movie had come before 'Boyhood' and has actors aging on screen with the characters they play. I hope one day I will finish this.

Sand Storm (2016/ Israel) by Elite Zexer: Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance. Israel's official entry for the Oscars this year.

My Life as a Courgette (2016/ Switzerland-France) by Claude Barras: A sweet 65-minute animation film that no one can hate. Switzerland's official entry for the Oscars.

October 27, 2016

Mumbai 2016, Day 5: Genre Benders

‘The Untamed’ (2016/ Mexico/ Amat Escalantecould have been a drama on infidelity. Instead, it has elements of fantasy/ mystery/ sci-fi. I discovered this filmmaker at this very festival in 2009 and followed it up with another of his film in 2013. For his latest he jointly won the Best Director prize at Venice this year.

‘Album’ (2016/ Turkey/ Mehmet Can Mertoglu) may look like a painfully slow drama about a couple hiding the adoption of their baby. And it could have been an intense film. It instead is a comedy, of a very dry kind, and if you miss to read its tone, you might get mightily bored with it.

‘Swiss Army Man’ (2016/ USA/ the DANIELScould have been an adventure, a survival movie, with elements of humor. But it is an outrageously original fantasy film with a deep commentary about life. The film won Best Director at Sundance.

‘I, Daniel Blake’ (2016/ UK/ Ken Loachwas arguably the most eagerly awaited movie of the festival, thanks to its Palme d’or status. And it could have been a painful art-house film. If nothing, it could have been a really moving drama, which it is, but then it surprises you with its humor and that is what really elevates you to a deeply touching but also entertaining film that you may want to watch again and again, especially for its masterful simplicity. No wonder it also won the Audience Award at Locarno. (‘Lagaan’ had won this award in 2001).

Breaking the expectations we have from a film’s genre can be tricky. It was wonderful to watch all four films do that today.

Only two days of the festival are left. Am I sad?

Mumbai 2016, Day 4: Taste and Tone

‘Multiple Maniacs’ (1970/ USA/ John Waters) is a C-grade crime comedy and is really, really bad. But the reason why it has gained a cult status is exactly that: so bad that it is good. I overheard some delegates sharing their disapproval after watching more than one hour of it. I was prepared for both – the movie and the audience’s reaction. In fact, I would have been disappointed if either were any better.

Shakun Batra believes a director’s primary job is to keep the tone of the movie right. Tone, he says, comes from taste. And taste comes from exposure. It is important to be open to all the varieties that come our way during a film festival. Taste buds grow fast during this one week.

‘Clash’ (2016/ Egypt/ Mohamed Diab) is Egypt’s Oscar entry this year. The entire film is set inside a van as the world outside clashes in one of recent history’s most violent political movement. Despite being a drama set in war, it had moments of brilliant humor and gripping thriller.

‘The Red Turtle’ (2016/ France-Belgium-Japan/ Michael Dudok de Wit) won Special Jury Prize (Un Certain Regard) at Cannes this year. This silent animation film tells an extremely simple story, with a fantastic twist that will leave you wondering what it is actually about. I plan to write a post on it soon. The interpretation aside, watching it on big screen was a meditative experience. I stepped out as if from a spa, cleansed from within, calmed from outside.

And the last film of the day was ‘Elle’ (2016/ France/ Paul Verhoeven) which was a brilliant example of the director meticulously controlling the tone of the film. It was a drama with elements of thriller, horror and mystery. But despite this it was funny and thoroughly entertaining. It is France’s Oscar entry this year.

18 movies in four days. Really happy.

October 24, 2016

Mumbai 2016, Day 3: More Power to the Dark, Please

Fourteen movies in three days. I am happy now. Yes, it is difficult to believe that three days are already over. But I am glad to have watched some really good movie. After a brilliant last day, it was difficult for me be blown away by the movies of today, but the last one, a deeply unsettling horror masterpiece compensated for everything. The 'After Dark' section at this festival is really good and I hope they keep bringing us awesome horror movies year after year.

Letters from War (2016/ Portugal/ Ivo M. Ferreira): Portugal's Oscar entry this year, it tells the real-life story of Antonio Lobo Antunes, an army doctor and novelist during his days in Angola.

Neruda (2016/ Chile/ Pablo Larrain): Another film on a real life character, a poet and a politician. With this I have finished watching eight Oscar contenders for the Foreign-Language category this year. Hope to add some more names to this list.

Goodbye Berlin (2016/ Germany/ Fatih Akin): Akin does a Gondry. This road movie involving two teenagers is very similar to last year's 'Microbe and Gasoline'. But despite that it was loved by the audience, for obvious reasons. Perhaps the most accessible movie of the festival so far.

The Wailing (2016/ South Korea/ Na Hong-jin): If I have to recommend one movie as a must watch from the fourteen that I have watched so far, it has to be this. Doing something original in the horror genre is such a tremendous achievement. And this film does not give you a single moment of gimmicky, alarming shock. It sits on you with its heavy knees on your chest and keeps grinding until you are exhausted and haunted forever. Is it South Korea's answer to 'Rosemary's Baby'?

Mumbai 2016, Day 2: Oh, What a Lovely Day!

All the five movies I watched today were really good, perhaps all were better than the best movie from yesterday. After these ten movies in two days, I already feel immensely satisfied with this year's festival. Following are the five from day two:

Paradise (2016/ Russia/ Andrei Konchalovsky): Joint winner of Best Director award at Venice, this film is Russia's Oscar entry this year. Every frame shines with brilliance. The film proves that even on the subject of the Holocaust, you can still make something extremely original. My favourite film of the festival so far.

The Land of the Enlightened (2016/ Belgium/ Pieter-Jan De Pue): Winner of the cinematography prize at Sundance, this docu-drama moves you like a beautiful poem. It is stunning, engaging, lyrical and deep. What an experience!

The Salesman (2016/ Iran/ Asghar Farhadi): Iran's Oscar entry, the suspenseful drama won Best Screenplay and Best Actor at Cannes. Farhadi continues telling compelling stories, movie after movie!

Death in Sarajevo (2016/ Bosnia-Herzegovina/ Danis Tanovic): Grand Jury Prize and FIPRESCI Prize winner at Berlin, this entire film is set in a hotel, but talks about everything from individual human struggles to international war and peace. The director of 'No Man's Land' does it again. It is also competing at the Oscars.

Personal Shopper (2016/ France/ Olivier Assayas): Joint winner of Best Director at Cannes this year, it is again a very engaging film about a girl dealing with the loss of her brother. It is an English-language film with elements of psychological drama and a ghost story.

October 22, 2016

Mumbai 2016, Day 1: Desperate Times

These are desperate times for the movie-buffs in the city. Our favourite film festival has started. The crowd is larger than ever and despite movies playing in eleven screens in Andheri, there is no respite. Some errors in scheduling, the ever-crashing booking website, and the unending confusion about the availability of seats has left the delegates exasperated. But they are not alone.

Lung and Chin are desperate too. Their relationship is going through a rough phase, as are their professional lives. Discontentment and distractions surround them and they are struggling to fight them out until they have each other for company. (Edward Yang's 'Taipei Story' - Taiwan/1985)

Ryota is desperate. His father has passed away and he remains a son who is yet to bloom and show his talents. A struggling author, he is somehow trying to provide monthly alimony to his ex-wife for some moments of togetherness with his son. And a storm is approaching. (Hirokazu Koreeda's 'After the Storm' - Japan/2016)

Lao Shi is desperate. A good-hearted taxi driver, he is forced to pay for the young man whom he hit for no fault of his and whom everyone else seems to have disowned for good. Shi's wife does not understand him. The authorities don't help. And the man in the hospital sleeps peacefully in coma. Why doesn't he die, for god's sake? (Johnny Ma's 'Old Stone' - Canada-China/2016. The film won Best Canadian Debut at Toronto)

Gana is desperate. As a nurse she has been taking advantage of the sick elderly she visits, trafficking their IDs to the bad guys. One accident and fear and guilt creeps in. Gana will have to fight everything around her in a world that God definitely seems to have abandoned. (Ralitza Petrova's 'Godless' - Bulgaria/2016. The film won over Locarno. Golden Leopard. Best Director. Actress. And Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. The director, Petrova, was present at the screening here and interacted with the audience afterwards.)

And Shideh is desperate as well. Iraq has launched missile attacks on Tehran and other Iranian cities. While people flee the city, she and her young daughter are forced to face demons Shideh never thought existed, leading to a horror no one can ever forget. (Babak Anvari's Persian language film 'Under the Shadow' - UK/2016. This is UK's Oscar entry this year.)

The fight continues. Despite sitting in front of the computer at 7.45, it is virtually impossible to book tickets when the window opens at eight. Or does it really open at eight? Because often we cannot book until it is half past eight. And then when we try, most good shows are already sold out. Is there any hope? Or our Mumbai Film Festival will continue with these glaring errors? After all, we love it so much anyway!

October 08, 2016

Mumbai Film Festival 2016: A Look at the Line-Up

Every year, as soon as the program for Mumbai Film Festival is released, I try to write a post about the line-up, mentioning some of the movies I most eagerly await. This year, due to some travelling and then being in my home-town for a family emergency, I am almost ten days late. Apologies for that. But here it is, my overview of this year's line-up:

OSCAR ENTRIES: I don't think we have ever had as many as 13 countries' official submission for the Oscars screening at our festival. I have watched India's entry 'Visaranai' and Venezuela's 'From Afar' that was screened at the festival last year. Following are the thirteen movies screening this year at our festival (also note the names of some big directors here):

  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina: 'Death in Sarajevo' by Danis Tanovic ('No Man's Land') has won Grand Jury Prize and FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin
  2. Chile: 'Neruda' by Pablo Larrain ('No', 'The Club')
  3. Egypt: 'Clash', the second film by Mohamed Diab
  4. France: 'Elle' by Paul Verhoeven ('Basic Instinct')
  5. Iran: 'The Salesman' by Asghar Farhadi has ('A Separation') has won Best Actor and Best Screenplay at Cannes
  6. Israel: 'Sand Storm' by debutant Elite Zexer has won awards at Sundance, Locarno and more 
  7. Portugal: 'Letters from War' by Ivo Ferreira
  8. Russia: 'Paradise' by Andrey Konchalovskiy who jointly won Best Director at Venice. This veteran film-maker will be a new discovery for me personally.
  9. Saudi Arabia: 'Barakah Meets Barakah' by debutant Mahmoud Sabbagh has won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Berlin
  10. Singapore: 'Apprentice' by Junfeng Boo
  11. Switzerland: 'My Life as a Courgette' by debutant Claude Barras has won Audience Awards at several festivals
  12. Taiwan: 'Hang in There, Kids' by Laha Mebow
  13. UK: 'Under the Shadow' by debutant 'Babak Anvari' is a Persian-language film from the UK
Apart from these, 'Aquarius',  the controversial film that was a strong contender from Brazil will also play.

WINNERS AT RECENT FILM FESTIVALS: Apart from the award-winning movies mentioned above, the festival will also screen:
  1. 'I, Daniel Blake' by Ken Loach ('Kes'): Won Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Audience Award at Locarno (the award won by Lagaan in 2001)
  2. 'Graduation' by Cristian Mungiu ('4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days' and 'Beyond the Hills'): Won Best Director at Cannes, tied with:
  3. 'Personal Shopper' by Olivier Assayas ('Clouds of Sils Maria'): Tied with the above for Best Director at Cannes
  4. 'The Red Turtle' by Michael Dudok de Wit: This silent animation film won Un Certain Regard - Special Jury Prize at Cannes
  5. 'The Woman Who Left' by Lav Diaz ('Norte, the End of History'): Won Golden Lion at Venice
  6. 'The Untamed' by Amat Escalante ('Los Bastardos', 'Heli'): Won Best Director jointly at Venice
  7. 'Things to Come' by Mia Hansen-Love: Won Best Director at Berlin
  8. 'The Commune' by Thomas Vinterberg ('Festen', 'The Hunt'): Won Best Actress for Trine Dyrholm at Berlin
  9. 'Fukushima Mon Amour' by Doris Dorrie: Runners-up Audience Award at Berlin
  10. 'Swiss Army Man' by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert: Won Best Director at Sundance
  11. 'The Land of the Enlightened' by Pieter-Jan De Pue: This documentary won award for cinematography at Sundance
  12. 'When Two Worlds Collide' by Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel: This documentary has won awards all over, including one at Sundance
  13. 'The Lure' by Agnieszka Smoczynska: It is a thriller that has won awards at several fantasy film festivals, and also the Special Jury Award at Sundance for Unique Vision and Design
  14. 'Godless' by Ralitza Petrova: Won four awards at Locarno, including Best Actress for Irena Ivanova and unanimously the Golden Leopard
RECENT MOVIES BY BIG NAMES: The movies mentioned above feature at least nine directors of repute. Then, there are more:
  1. 'After the Storm' by Hirokazu Koreeda ('Like Father Like Son')
  2. 'Don't Call Me Son' by Anna Muylaert ('The Second Mother')
  3. 'Endless Poetry' by Alejandro Jodorowsky ('The Holy Mountain')
  4. 'Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World' by Werner Herzog ('Aguirre, the Wrath of God')
  5. 'The Neon Demon' by Nicolas Winding Refn ('Drive')
  6. 'The Unknown Girl' by the Dardenne Brothers ('Rosetta', 'The Son')
  7. 'The Death of Louis XIV' by Albert Serra ('Story of My Death)
  8. 'Goodbye Berlin' by Fatih Akin ('Head-On')
  9. 'Tope' by Buddhadeb Dasgupta ('Laal Darja')
  10. 'Pinneyum' by Adoor Gopalakrishnan ('Swayamvaram')
  11. 'Anatomy of Violence' by Deepa Mehta ('Water')
  12. 'Trapped' by Vikramditya Motwane ('Udaan', 'Lootera')
CLASSICS: Apart from these, the festival will also screen classics like 'On the Silver Globe' and 'The Saragossa Manuscript' from Poland, 'Multiple Maniacs' from USA, 'Teesri Manzil' from India, 'Jaago Hua Savera' from Pakistan, 'The Bride' and 'Winter Sleep' from Turkey, and Jia Zhngke's 'Unknown Pleasures' and 'A Touch of Sin'.

I am also looking forward to the documentary 'The Cinema Travellers'.

October 04, 2016


There has been no activity on my blog for more than two months now. Although there can be no excuse for complacence and procrastination, I must admit that I was extremely caught up with things. The course I was conducing at AIB called 'First Draft' concluded on the 16th of September. Providing continuous feedback to ten students working on twelve stories was extremely demanding. As soon as the course ended, I went away for a much needed time alone, but then that trip was cut short because of a family emergency.

I am in my hometown in Bihar as I type these words. I hope to be back in Mumbai before the Film Festival begins. I also hope the festival will make me blog more often, starting with an upcoming post on the festival line-up.


July 28, 2016

My TEDx Talk at IIM-Indore

Sometime in May I received an email from IIM-Indore, inviting me to deliver a talk at their upcoming TEDx event. They wanted to know if I would want to accept the invitation. I was overwhelmed and despite the doubt if I was worthy of that stage, I accepted it. That was the only reasonable thing to do.

I was then informed of the theme: "Inscriptions on Sand". This is how they explained it to me: "Norms help us against the chaos and structure our life. So it becomes tough to stand up against the existing norms and bring about a revolutionary change. But these transformations are inevitable and necessary as they lead to the betterment of the society, washing away our current perceptions as new waves wash away the 'inscriptions on sand'."

When I had agreed to the invitation, I didn't know that I'll have to speak on a theme. From here to receiving the strict TEDx instructions and eventually working on the content of my speech, I constantly wondered what I am getting into. I must mention that the support that I received from the organizers was phenomenal - they literally helped me figure out my talk for myself. When I saw the list of the rest of the speakers, I felt so honored and humbled. There were seven of us. Apart from me, the rest of them were:
  • Anu Vaidyanathan: Athlete (swimmer, biker and marathon runner), PhD in Electrical Engineering and CEO of an IP Consulting Firm
  • Navin Gulia: Guinness Record Holder Adventurer, Author and Social Worker
  • Vijay Padaki: Psychologist, Behavioral Scientist and Theatre Guru
  • Abhishant Pant: Fintech Enthusiast, Explorer, presently on a Cashless Endeavour
  • Swapna Sundar: Entrepreneur, Lawyer and Author
  • Padmashri Dr. V. Adimurthy: The Brain behind Mangalyaan
Finally on 26th of June, we had the event in the beautiful campus of IIM-Indore. I decided to talk about "the Essential Ingredient of Your Life-Changing Moment". What is that? Watch the video below and see if it is of any help to you. For me, it was a privilege to be there and listen to my fellow speakers and an experience I will never forget. I cannot ask for more.

June 03, 2016

Cannes in Andheri 2016

The regular readers of this blog must be aware of these festivals I organize for myself at my place - a mini-version of the big global festivals. This May, synchronising with the Cannes, I organized another Cannes in Andheri Film Festival. But this time I was not alone. My students at AIB First Draft joined me and the screenings were held at our movie-cum-lecture hall. We screened eight movies this time:

'Apocalypse Now' (1979/ USA) by Francis Ford Coppola: The OPENING FILM of our festival was the 3 hr 22 min long 'Redux' version of this anti-war classic. Winner of the highest honor at Cannes, the Palme d'Or, the film went on to win two Oscars - for cinematography and sound and is regarded today as one of the greatest films ever made. Watch it to know why. It is nothing short of a wonder!

'The Tin Drum' (1979/ West Germany) by Volker Schlondorff: This surrealistic black comedy, based on the novel by Nobel laureate Gunter Grass, is unforgettable! Winning the Palme d'Or with 'Apocalypse Now' it eventually also won the Best Foreign Language Oscar. The film introduced me to the work of Volker Schlondorff - a veteran director of feature, documentary and TV. At the age of 77, he is still making films.

'12:08 East of Bucharest' (2006/ Romania) by Corneliu Porumboiu: This minimalistic dark comedy in the typical Romanian New Wave style was the feature debut for Porumboiu and won him the Camera d'Or at Cannes - arguable the most prestigious award for a debutant director.

'Marty' (1955/ USA) by Delbert Mann: I had never even heard of this and what a revelation this film was! It is one of the two films who have won both the Palme d'Or and Best Picture Oscar. It also went on to win Oscars for Direction (for Delbert Mann in his feature debut), Screenplay (for Paddy Chayefsky who also wrote 'Network') and Actor. The film was shot over 19 days and its box office revenue was nine times its small budget. Moving and thoroughly entertaining.

'The Scent of Green Papaya' (1993/ France-Vietnam) by Tran Anh Hung: The first film of the Vietnamese director won the Camera d'Or at Cannes and then became the first Vietnamese film to be nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. It is one of the most beautiful films you will see. It will leave you with a meditative calm that will stay for very long.

'The Double Life of Veronique' (1991/ France-Poland) by Krzysztof Kieslowski: When this Kieslowski film won three awards at Cannes - Best Actress, the FIPRESCI Prize, and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - it brought Kieslowski to world stage. His Three Colours Trilogy and the rediscovery of Decalogue followed, making him a master in world cinema. My favourite film-maker, and it was a joy to rewatch this film after six years.

'Son of Saul' (2015/ Hungary) by Laszlo Nemes: Widely acclaimed as one of the finest films of last year, this Oscar-winner had started its journey at Cannes with four wins: the Grand Prize of the Jury, the Francois Chalais award, the FIPRESCI Prize and the Vulcain Prize for Sound Design. Very unique in its style, the film sets the wait for the next film by this Hungarian filmmaker.

'Secrets & Lies' (1996/ UK) by Mike Leigh: This great British drama by seven-time Oscar nominee, the great Mike Leigh had won three awards at Cannes - Best Actress for Brenda Blethyn, the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the top honour - Palme d'Or. The film had five Oscar nominations - Best Picture, Direction, Screenplay, Actress and Supporting Actress. I may watch 100 more movies this year, but I doubt many will come close to the greatness and emotional depth of 'Secrets & Lies' - the perfect CLOSING FILM of our festival.

May 28, 2016

Must Watch Before You Die #47: Rosemary's Baby (1968)

I had watched 'Rosemary's Baby' for the first time in 2010. And I had loved it. I was not sure if I would call it a horror film, but its impact was enormous and I wanted to discuss it with everyone around me. Unfortunately, you cannot discuss this movie without spoiling it for others - as it has one of the most devastating closing scenes in film history, almost as powerful as the closing moments of 'Bicycle Thieves' (1948). I also remember doubting my fascination with the film. Without any real reason, I find myself biased toward Polanski and I love almost all of his twelve films that I have watched - including some lesser ones. Was it my Polanski-worship that made me so strongly appreciate this 1968 classic? I wondered. I wanted to give it some time, and re-watch it, and then see what it does to me.

The rewatch happened recently. With the AIB First Draft students, I revisited the film on a big screen - at Matterden. And I could feel it all over again - the masterful direction of Roman Polanski so efficiently retelling the horrifying story on screen, with every decision - of the use of color to lenses to the perfectly eerie background score adding to one singular purpose - creating a timeless textbook of not just horror, but film-making in general. I could feel my body reacting to the film, shivers all over me, and my mind getting sucked into the horrors that I was more aware of this time than the characters on screen or the students of mine around me. When the movie ended - we were stunned - no one said a word. Without any conventional horror device, the film had terrified us, and me, once again.

Do not read about it. Do not watch its trailer. Do yourself a favor and watch this film. There is, however, only one catch - experiencing this movie is a point of no return, with the end so terrifying that you might regret why you watched it. There is no escaping 'Rosemary's Baby'. But it is a must-watch-before-you-die if you are game for it! Go and get scared for life!

March 19, 2016

Modern Masters: 2016 List

TSPDT recently released its list of the 1000 most-acclaimed films of this century. Like LAST YEAR, I created a list of film-makers based on TSPDT's 1000, film-makers with the most impressive filmographies during the years 2000 to 2015. Their ranking considers two aspect - how many of their films feature in Top 1000, and what is the respective rank of each of these films on that list.

So here they are, the top ten film-makers of the last fifteen years:

10. Claire Denis (69-year old French film-maker): The only woman on the list, Denis is one spot down from last year. She has directed six feature films since 2000, ALL of which feature in Top 1000: Trouble Every DayFriday NightThe Intruder35 Shots of RumWhite Material, and Bastards.

9. Martin Scorsese (73-year old American film-maker): Scorsese is one spot down this year as well. But his latest feature, 'Silence' should release by year-end and that will give him the opportunity to climb up the chart. He has directed six films since 2000, ALL of which feature in Top 1000: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, Hugo, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

8. Quentin Tarantino (52-year old American film-maker): Tarantino did not feature in the top ten list last year. But this year, thanks to his latest film, he grabs the eighth rank, being the only new entry, and kicking out Christopher Nolan from top ten. He has made six films in the last fifteen years, ALL of which feature in Top 1000: Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight

7. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (45-year old Thai film-maker): His latest, 'Cemetery of Splendour' could not make it to Top 1000. And hence, this Thai master is one rank down from last year. He has directed seven feature films in his career, all since 2000, five of which feature in Top 1000. More remarkable is the fact that four of his movies are among top 60: Tropical Malady (2004) is highest rated at #13, followed by Blissfully YoursUncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past LivesSyndromes and a Century, and Mysterious Object at Noon.

6. Steven Spielberg (69-year old American film-maker): Has directed eleven films since 2000, eight of which feature in Top 1000: AI Artifical Intelligence, Minority ReportCatch Me If You Can,MunichWar of the WorldsWar Horse, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies. Thanks to his latest, he has climbed one rank up from last year. In a few months, his new film will be out: The BFG. It is based on a Roald Dahl novel and the screenplay is by Melissa Mathison who wrote the wonderful ET for Spielberg more than three decades ago.

5. Jia Zhangke (45-year old Chinese film-maker): Has directed seven films since 2000, six of which feature in Top 1000: Platform (2000) is highest rated at #17, followed by Still LifeThe WorldUnknown PleasuresA Touch of Sin, and 24 City. His latest, Mountains May Depart, could not make it to Top 1000, and hence he is one position down from last year. 

4. Wes Anderson (46-year old American filmmaker): Despite no release this year, Anderson has climbed one place up from last year's rankings. He has directed six films since 2000, ALL of which feature in Top 1000: The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise KingdomFantastic Mr. FoxThe Grand Budapest Hotel, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeing Limited.

3. Joel and Ethan Coen (American film-makers, respectively 61 and 58 years of age): Missing the second spot narrowly by one point, the Coen Brothers have retained their third rank. They have directed nine films during 2000-2015, seven of which feature in Top 1000: No Country for Old Men, A Serious ManInside Llewyn DavisO Brother, Where Art Thou?True GritThe Man Who Wasn't There, and Burn After Reading. Their latest, Hail, Caesar! may take them to the second spot next year.

2. Richard Linklater (55-year old American film-maker): Holding on to the second spot, Linklater has directed eleven films since 2000, seven of which feature in Top 1000: Before Sunset, BoyhoodWaking LifeBefore MidnightSchool of RockA Scanner Darkly, and Bernie. His latest, Everybody Wants Some!! is about to be released and Linklater may continue to stay in top three next year as well.

1. Michael Haneke (Austrian film-maker, about to turn 74): Despite having no releases in the last three years, Haneke is at the top. And it seems he will stay there for the next year as well. Reason? Six of the seven features he made since 2000 are ranked so highly that his total score surpasses film-makers with more movies. Cache (2005) is highest ranked at #7, followed by The Piano Teacher (#45), The White Ribbon (#47), Code Unknown (#66) and Amour (#73). Time of the Wolf is ranked #479.