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MAMI Time Again

Friday, October 13, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

The Mumbai international film festival, organized by the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI), is in its 19th edition this year (October 12-18). After teething and budget problems for many years, slowly and steadily it has become one of the most important festivals in India, and in Asia. (The aspiration to be another Cannes never goes away!)

If a festival can manage to get the much talked about films, winners from other festivals and important personalities from all over the world, it is the mark of how well a festival is regarded in a world overflowing with them – because nothing makes people come together as much as movies, and perhaps nothing unifies cultures as much. Countries could be at war, but they will still watch each other’s movies – if not in the cinemas then on TV, computers or phones.

When the festival changed hands from the old guard to the new, it did well to involve young people and kids through events aimed at them; they also have year-long programmes so that the cinephilia generated in each new wave of film festival attendees does not get a chance to die out.

It is important in these days of attacks on culture to have a dialogue on films making significant social points and spread the message too. Because, unlike the old days, when festivals were the only way to catch international films or even those from other regions of the country, now there are ways of acquiring them online. Still, more and more people take time off from their studies or their jobs and travel distances through traffic to watch cinema, which is a great sign.

It could be one of the long-term effects of the increased exposure to international films (and some of them are so good that they make our biggest Bollywood hits look amateurish) that content-driven cinema is slowly being accepted by audiences, and small to medium budget films without major stars are also working at the box-office, or at least being watched on paid platforms on television. All new filmmakers want most of all for their films to be seen and appreciated. Now, films from other states are being released in multiplexes, with subtitles, so, for the discerning viewer, the choice is getting wider and better.

It is taking time, but the new Indian cinema is also being watched, reviewed and discussed much more at global forms.

This year, the festival has lined up 220 films from 49 countries in 51 languages, some of them not familiar to our audiences. Reportedly, there are films in African languages like Kikuyu, Bembe, Nyanja, Tonga, Xhosa, Samoan and Lingala.

But the ones that get booked in advance and get the hordes queuing up are the ones that come with awards, acclaim or well-orchestrated marketing. This year, there is the CannesPalme d'Or-winner 'The Square', by Swedish writer-director Ruben Ostlund, and the Cannes Jury Prize-winner 'Loveless' by Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev (Russia’s entry for the Oscars), and other picks from that French festival, like Sergei Loznitsa’s 'A Gentle Creature' and Sean Baker’s 'The Florida Project'.

Other films to look forward to include Abbas Kiarostami’s '24 Frames', the James Ivory-written Luca Guadagnino-directed 'Call Me by Your Name', Richard Linklater’s 'Last Flag Flying',  Todd Haynes’s 'Wonderstruck', Joachim Trier’s horror film 'Thelma', Eliza Hittman’s 'Beach Rats', Aktan Arym Kubat’s 'Centaur' (Kyrgyzstan’s entry for the Oscars), the unusual animated film, 'Loving Vincent' by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman,

Many Indian films like Anurag Kashyap’s 'Mukkabaaz' (the opening film), Anup Singh’s 'The Song Of The Scorpions', Rima Das’s Village 'Rockstars', Sanak Kumar Sasidharan’s 'Sexy Durga', Shlok Sharma’s 'Zoo' and Karma Takapa’s 'Raland Road' are being talked about.

Surely, it will be a week well spent at the movies!

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