I have attended every edition of MAMI Film Festival from 2009 to 2016. And almost as a ritual, I kept a log of my daily experience during the MAMI week on this blog. This MAMI, I couldn't do that. I couldn't write blog posts every day. Possible reasons:
- Not attending the festival in 2017 had already broken the chain. Although the reason for missing out that year was simple. I was directing my first feature.
- The first feature mentioned above was supposed to change my relation with MAMI. From a film buff, I was to be there as a film-maker. But, as most of you know, that didn't happen. And that, safe to assume, must have affected my enthusiasm of writing daily posts.
- Thanks to the fiasco mentioned above, I made sure to keep writing every day (writing a screenplay), even during the MAMI week, despite watching more than three films daily. Writing blog posts over and above that must have been a little too demanding.
- I have grown too old to write daily blog posts during the hectic MAMI week, it seems.
I must be honest to admit that I feel a little guilty, despite all these reasons. I should have made time. I do feel I have let myself down. Will I get back to may daily reporting from next year? Or will I detach further still? I have no clue. For now, let me briefly share my thoughts on the movies I watched this year at MAMI. They are arranged in the order of least to most favorite.
- Colette (2018/US-UK) by Wash Westmoreland: Easily the most disappointing film of the festival for me, although several in the audience really enjoyed it. I don't know why you have to shoot and score a period film in the most obvious way possible? A film on the life of such a radical, colorful character deserves more imagination. No?
- Birds of Passage (2018/Colombia) by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra: Visually stunning and all. But emotionally this didn't work for me at all. I am sure a lot will disagree. The film has made it to top nine at the Oscars in the foreign-language category.
- Hotel by the River (2018/ South Korea) by Sang-soo Hang: Atmospheric and quirky. Enjoyed some bits of it. But not something to must-watch. Not bad either.
- Fugue (2018/ Poland) by Agnieszka Smoczynska: Extremely well-directed. But the screenplay disappointed me. I must repeat, the direction is so good that I would want to watch it again.
- Diamantino (2018/ Portugal) by Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt: Two and half months after the festival, I don't know if I would rate this film above 'Fugue'. But I have decided to stick by what I felt during the festival. The film is bizarre and funny, to say the least.
- In Fabric (2018/ UK) by Peter Strickland: Easily the director's weakest film, but still quite unforgettable. Very bold and expectedly original. My love for the director made sure I loved this film despite its flaws.
- The Wild Pear Tree (2018/ Turkey) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan: Only if it were an hour shorter, it could have been quite powerful. But because of some moments in it that really moved me, I am rating it higher than what I probably should. The film is already out of the Oscar race.
- Maya (2018/ France) by Mia Hansen-Love: Despite nothing really remarkable about this film, it had a tenderness that moved me in some way. Perhaps it was the director, her command of the craft, as well as her being a woman, that the love story in it, in a strange way, worked for me. It was also interesting to see India, where most of the film is set, from an outsider's perspective.
- High Life (2018/ US-UK-and more) by Claire Denis: Traveled all the way from Andheri to Kurla at peak evening traffic to make this my closing film of the festival, for the director, obviously, and coz it is supposed be a sci-fi horror art-house film. Didn't like it or understand it much, but there was enough there for me to rate it so highly in this list. Back then, at least. Not sure how I feel about it today.
- A Land Imagined (2018/ Singapore-France-Netherlands) by Siew Hua Yeo: Interesting. More from a structural and political point of view than anything else.
- Burning (2018/ South Korea) by Lee Chang-dong: A brilliant execution of (what I felt) an ordinary story. This film is gaining widespread acclaim and might be the first South Korean film to earn an Oscar nomination. Its merits are great. But perhaps it is lesser than the sum of its parts.
- The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018/ US-UK) by Desiree Akhavan: Its similarities with 'Boy Erased' are uncanny and I think the film didn't really build on its great premise. But with its limited ambition, it is really cool. The tone, especially, is sweet and nice.
- Mandy (2018/ Canada-US) by Panos Cosmatos: I know many will find this to be just indulgent and senseless. But I loved the guts this film had. So important to have films like these to keep pushing the collective cinematic imagination.
- Champions (2018/ Spain) by Javier Fesser: Despite its problematic, exploitative and melodramatic bits, the film has enough to be an instant crowd-pleaser. The resemblance with 'Chak De India' is obvious, but that's how most genre films are. The film, however, is out of the Oscar race.
- Three Identical Strangers (2018/ US-UK) by Tim Wardle: The only documentary I watched at MAMI this year, this is an unforgettable story. I know the storytelling is slightly convenient and manipulative, but still, for its great content, and for some moments that really worked for me, it is among my top choices.
- Mug (2018/ Poland) by Malgorzata Szumowska: Truly entertaining, strongly political, and a case study of tone, this film completely won me over. In fact, I now wonder why I rated it below some of the following movies!
- Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018/ Hungary) by Milorad Krstic: What imagination at play! Justifies the choice of animation, and surprises you at every level. With its numerous references and homages to movies of the past (some of which I could spot and recognize) and some famous art works (most of which I knew nothing about), this film should always hold a special place in the art world.
- The Heiresses (2018/ Paraguay) by Marcelo Martinessi: Now out of the Oscar race, this film deserves universal praise. It builds slowly, but then engulfs you in its humane, subtle portrayal. Remarkable directing.
- Cold War (2018/ Poland) by Pawel Pawlikowski: Frankly, I don't get the hype around this film. Sure it is stunning and has some great music. But I don't know why it is getting such acclaim, including featuring so high on this list! The film is already in the top nine at the Oscars and may even get into the top five.
- Woman at War (2018/ Iceland) by Benedikt Erlingsson: An instant crowd-pleaser, and very original genre film. My only, and very slight, problem was with its slightly indulgent use of the omnipresent band of musicians. But that is just me being a little, unnecessarily, critical. The film is out of the Oscar race, though.
- Border (2018/ Sweden) by Ali Abbasi: Unforgettable. Supremely original. Chillingly suspenseful and surprisingly tender. This is one of the best films of the year, without a doubt. It is out of the Oscar race, but I feel it deserved to be in the top five. Watch it and discover your love for the bizarre.
- Climax (2018/ France-US) by Gaspar Noe: This film is a nightmare. Do not watch it if you get affected by dark content. This is dark and indulgent in every sense. And it is hypnotic, and spectacular. I also feel it is extremely well paced. Just when you can't bear it any more, it ends. Not sooner, nor later.
- BlackKklansman (2018/ US) by Spike Lee: A winner in every sense. Thoroughly entertaining and uninhibitedly political, this is a film the world needs to watch, especially the big guys. Every performance is super, dialogue truly funny. Can and should be re-watched, easily and eagerly.
- One Cut of the Dead (2017/ Japan): This has to be the discovery of the year. It is also a must-watch-before you die (#50). The love that this film has received is so rightly deserved. I really wish, for those who couldn't, you watch it in a theater, with 200-300 in the audience. Don't read about it. Don't watch the trailer. Raise your expectations as high as you want. And then see how the film supersedes all your, already high, expectations.
- Roma (2018/ Mexico): The best film for me at the festival. Perhaps the best film I have seen this year. Beautiful beyond description, crafted with stunning mastery of the cinematic language, and deeply moving, 'Roma' should be one of the winners at the Oscars, apart from being a masterpiece that will stand all test of time.
Some high profile and acclaimed films I missed: 'Shoplifters', 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs', 'The House that Jack Built', 'A Twelve-Year Night', 'First Reformed', 'Sorry to Bother You', 'Leave No Trace', 'Widows', '3 Faces' and 'Madeline's Madeline'.
270 movies in nine editions of the festival. Simple arithmetic will tell you I should reach 300 next year. But life will tell you, especially after how dramatic it was for me this year, that we shouldn't make assumptions. Just keep faith. And keep that I shall.