THE BEST OF MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL 2011

Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) is back. Mumbai Film Festival 2011 promises to be an absolutely delicious buffet for cinema-lovers across the country. Yes, across the country- you will be hard pressed to find any other Indian film festival with such a large and varied turnout- with film enthusiasts from as far as New York, Tokyo and Kolkata scrambling to reach the venue of this celebration on time.
In its 13th year now, the tireless programmers and organizers of the festival have pulled out all the stops- and may have given us their best line-up (an entire list of films handpicked over the year) yet. With over 200 films to choose from, for seven consecutive days, viewers and delegates have their work (and pleasure) cut out. If you want a full overview, you may visit the website. But trust us when we say this- most of us wait to make these ‘important choices’ all year long. It is always a bit tricky, with over 10 screens across 3 venues screening films at any point of time- and inevitably, random choices are made. Either we live with it, or we moan about what we may have ‘missed’.

Hence, to make matters slightly easier (and to brainwash you ), let me present to you 10 films that MUST be watched at any cost during the week from 13th to 20th– where ever you are, whatever you do. Most of these films have been making waves across prestigious festivals (from Cannes to Sundance to Berlin to Venice) all over the world this year, some of which you might even recognize, so do NOT assume that you will ever watch them again on a large 35mm screen:

MONEYBALLDirected by Bennett Miller (USA / 2011 / Col. / 133′)Starring Brad Pitt, this pathbreaking film on the business of baseball, is already being hailed as The Social Network of this year. Not a surprise then- that it is once again written by the best contemporary writer in Hollywood- Aaron Sorkin, along with the equally-decorated Steven Zaillian (Hannibal, Gangs of New York). Never mind that it is directed by Miller- the director of Capote. Already a hot pre-season Oscar Contender, the film- which is about a coach that assembles a team of misfits using computer-generated analysis- is more in the news for the spectacular coming-of-age performance of Jonah Hill. A must-watch, if not for the acting heavyweights at hand, then for the sheer outrageousness of the fact that this is a mainstream Hollywood film that has successfully conquered the festival circuit, is a critic-darling, and is quite the money-spinner already. What else? Oh, it’s this festival’s OPENING film, too. (For those of you lucky enough to get an opening-day pass: Thursday, Oct. 13th, 5.30 PM Cinemax Versova)
(For the rest of us mere mortals: Metro Big Cinemas Screen 2, Friday Oct. 14th 5.30 PM)

ARMADILLODirected by Janus Metz Pederson (Denmark / 2010 / Col. / 105′)Winner of the 2010 Grand Prix de la Semaine de la Critique at Cannes, Armadillo is a gritty military documentary bravely and brilliantly shot by documentary-filmmaker Janus Metz when he accompanied a group of Danish soldiers at Armadillo, an army base in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. Metz and cameraman Lars Skree spent six months following the lives of young soldiers situated less than a kilometer away from Taliban positions. The result is a visually sophisticated probe into the psychology of young men in the midst of a senseless war whose victims are primarily local villagers. A year later, maybe, but this footage is a real eye-opener for aspiring documentary-makers all over the world. Shocking, disturbing, controversial and worth a watch in 2011, 2020 or even 2050.
(Friday, 14th October: Big Cinemas Metro, Screen 4, 8.15 PM)
 

THE ARTISTdirected by Michel Hazanavicius (France/2011/B&W/100’)Remnant of the classic Singin in the Rain, The Artist is an ode to the black and white silent film era. The only difference being- this is actually a SILENT film, made 60 years after the musical (based on the silent-to-talkies-transition).
Don’t run away yet, for silence is an art too (which we duly wish most Bollywood screenwriters would understand) Premiered at Cannes Film Festival 2011, it received a massive standing ovation- particularly for Jean Dujardin, who won Best Actor for his portrayal of a silent film star distraught with the emergence of talking pictures. It also stars Hollywood stalwarts John Goodman & James Cromwell.
(Saturday, October 15: Cinemax Versova, Screen 4, 5.45 PM) 

THE WHISTLEBLOWERdirected by Larysa Kondracki (Germany-Canada / 2011)The feature-film debut of Canadian filmmaker Kondracki, The Whistleblower tells the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and ousted the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal. The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, and was finally released commercially just a month ago. Starring Rachel Weisz, Monica Bellucci and Vanessa Redgrave…that should be reason enough to watch it- because inspite of passable production value for this gritty gender-bias-based political drama, a good script and superb performances by the women make the drama engrossing enough to catch at this year’s MFF, 2011.
(15 October, Saturday: Cinemax Versova, Screen 3, 8 PM)

JESUS HENRY CHRISTdirected by Dennis Lee (USA / 2011 / Col. / 91′)Based on the director’s student academy-award winning short of the same name, this quirky little indie comedy is about young genius Henry James Hermin, a boy who was conceived in a petri dish and raised by his feminist mother (played by indie-favorite Toni Colette)- and how he follows a string of post-it notes in hopes of finding his biological father. Making its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival 2011, the film opened to mixed reviews- obviously dependent on the acceptance of eccentric unrealistic, but funny characters in journey-based films such as this, more in the mould of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘Everything must go’. A must-watch for indie fans, for its optimal production design and a heartwarming performance by 13 year old Jason Spevack.
(Sunday 16 October: Cinemax Versova, Screen 4, 10.15 AM)
 

TABLOIDDirected by Errol Morris (USA/2010/Col./87’)
With his last few documentaries addressing heavy issues like the death penalty, the Vietnam War, Abu Ghraib, Oscar-winning filmmaker Morris must have decided on entertainment over enlightenment. In Errol Morris’s arresting new documentary, a beauty queen (former Miss Wyoming) with an IQ of 168 travels across the globe, gets embroiled in (Mormon) kidnapping, porn, jail and cloning laboratories. Also, this stunning character piece is said to be shot in three days.
(Sunday, October 16: Big Cinemas Metro, Screen 2, 12.30 PM) 

PINA- Directed by Wim Wenders (Germany-France-UK/2011/100’)
Arguably the most sensual film to have released in 2011, this 3D film pays homage to Pina Bausch, the famous German choreographer who passed away last year. If you still wonder what I mean when I say ‘sensual’ (you’re wondering wrong), then take a look
here. The film, not surprisingly, is Germany’s official submission to the 84th Academy Awards. 

(Monday, October 17: Cinemax Versova, Screen 4, 5.45 PM)  

THE YELLOW SEADirected by Na Hong-jin (South Korea/2010/156’)
The team behind the superb cult Korean film The Chaser (more recently in the news due to Bhatt’s ‘inspirational’ Murder 2) return with another spectacular, gritty, slow-burning effort that redefines the wide landscape of Asian filmmaking. The plot simply CANNOT be ripped off from, this time around: A cab driver from Yanji, a region between North Korea, China and Russia, whose wife has disappeared in South Korea travels to the country to carry out one last hit.
What’s more- Director Na Hong-jin is on the jury at the Mumbai Film Festival. 
(Tuesday, October 18: Cinemax Versova, Screen 4, 3.45 PM)  

MELANCHOLIADirected by Lars Von Trier (Denmark/2011/130’)
Melancholia is an apocalyptic drama from Danish director Lars Von Trier, and a much-hyped follow up to his controversial and devastating Antichrist. Easily the most-talked about film on the festival circuit this year, it stars Kirsten Dunst in her first breakaway role in years- it pays off, because in a telling statement that may just prove her worth (to herself) as an actor beyond her years, Dunst won Best Actress at Cannes 2011. True to Trier’s psychological depth, his initial inspiration for the film came from a depressive episode he suffered and the insight that depressives remain calm in stressful situations. The film chronicles the lives of two sisters (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg) during the final three days of planet Earth’s existence. As we speak, the director is still banned from Cannes for pro-Nazi comments.
(Tuesday, October 18: Cinemax Versova, Screen 2, 8.15 PM)
 

ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIADirected by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey/2011/157’)
Easily the most anticipated (and longest) film of MFF 2011, this Turkish drama won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The film is a typical Ceylan slow-burn murder-investigational thriller- highly recommended for those who do not have to have action-packed scenes and formula-bound stories to enjoy a film. 
(Thursday, October 20: Cinemax Versova, Screen 3, 3.30 PM)


That’s it for the must-watch list, and I’ve just realized that there are atleast five more that may cause death if not watched this week- Sleeping Beauty (by Australian filmmaker Julia Leigh), the much-awaited Martin Scorcese-music documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Restless (by Gus Van Sant) and, of course, Hollywood’s big draw-in this month: The Ides of March (directed by George Clooney and starring current favorite Ryan Gosling).

Rahul Desai

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