The Top 10 Films at the Mumbai Film Festival
With over 200 film screenings in various parts of Mumbai, a new hub at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, in the NCPA complex, panels, workshops, and a healthy presence of the Hindi film industry, the recently-concluded 14th Mumbai Film Festival was a big celebration of world cinema.
I had already seen many of the films that played this year's MFF (including the brilliant Indian film Ship of Theseus, perhaps the best film shown at MFF) but there were still surprise discoveries and a chance to revisit films that are already playing in theatres in the US.
Here is my list of the top 10 films at this year's MFF in alphabetic order.
A father and daughter move to another town to start afresh after the mother's death in a car accident. Despite the change in environment, their mourning continues.
It is especially hard for Alejandra, the young teen who has to find space in a new school, where a cruel joke by her classmates becomes increasingly messy.
This year's top prize winner in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival, Mexican director Michael Franco's unsettling film After Lucia is a reminder of the horrible things human beings -- especially teenagers -- are capable of doing to each other.
Image: A scene from After Lucia
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist, who continues to combine his creative work with his political activism against his government.
In Alison Klayman's terrific documentary, Weiwei is portrayed as a talented man with a sense of humour, despite the odds against him. His consistent struggle against the China's totalitarian communist system is a wonderful source of inspiration for all, especially people who live in the free world and often take their liberties for granted.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is an important film for everyone, but it's a must see for the youth as they try to find a meaning of the world we live in.
Image: A scene from Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Austrian filmmaker Michael Heneke, 70, has become a cult figure among film buffs, who follow world cinema. His films are always bleak and often very disturbing and yet he is considered the darling of art-house cinema and film festivals.
Amour, his second Palm d'Or win at the Cannes Film Festival in three years, is a deeply moving tale of love, old age, ailments, and the final goodbyes we must say to those who we love the most.
It is one of the saddest films ever made and yet, it has a healing touch that only a master like Heneke could portray on the screen.
Image: A scene from Amour
Beast of the Southern Wild
A sensation at this year's Sundance Film Festival where it won the top award in the dramatic category, first-time filmmaker Benh Zeitlin's Beast of the Southern Wild is a remarkable film about a six-year-old girl's struggle to survive as her world starts to crumble around her.
One of the most imaginative films in a while, Beast boasts of strong performances by its leads -- young Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy and Dwight Henry as her father.
Although a very independently made film, Beast stands a good chance of getting several nominations at the Oscar race.
Image: A scene from Beast of the Southern Wild
The Dandelions, part of the large French package at MFF, is charming little film dealing with childhood -- kids try to comprehend the world of adults around them, as they learn the lessons of life, including coping with loss.
In The Dandelions, director Carine Tardieu recreates a lovely world, filled with memories, children's imaginations (especially touching is the young lead Rachel's vision of her father as a boy in Auschwitz) and an elaborate production design.
A very likable film, it will leave a smile on the viewer's face despite its tragic tones.
Image: A scene from The Dandelions
Another film about a motherless-child, Dutch entry Kauwboy focuses on a spirited 10-year-old, who learns to become an adult at a young age, caring for his father, and a pet jackdaw while keeping his mother's memory alive.
Just as in After Lucia, the adult (Jojo's father) in Kauwboy is so engaged in his own mourning that Jojo has to fend for himself. Despite sad moments, Kauwboy is a very likeable and heartwarming film.
Image: A scene from Kauwboy
Like Someone in Love
Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami is a leading figure in the world cinema but the political environment in his home country is making it hard for him make films there.
A couple of years ago, Kiarostami made a French film Certified Copy. His new work takes him to Japan where he has made a Japanese film.
Like Someone in Love has been described as an anti-love story, an engaging film about a student who makes extra money as an escort, and the unique relationship she develops with an older client.
Viewers sometimes find Kiarostami's works baffling, but here, the filmmaker handles his subjects with care giving a warm touch to an otherwise quiet film.
Image: A scene from Like Someone in Love
Definitely the oddest film to be shown at the MFF, Holy Motors, follows one man -- played by actor Denis Lavant -- who seemingly lives nine parallel lives in a day, changing his appearances, persona, surroundings.
At times, gruesome and violent, and at other moments tender and sometimes even funny, Holy Motors is hard film to categorise.
It is equally hard to fully understand the meaning of the film. Each episode has a narrative structure, but they do not necessarily tie up together. What is obvious is that we have an orgy of wild ideas as reflected by the visionary director Leos Carax.
As Manohla Dargis of the New York Times wrote in her review: '(Holy Motors) feels unlike anything else: it's cinema reloaded.'
And for that reason alone, the film is worth a visit.
Image: A scene from Holy Motors
Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone (Gamorrah) has created a complex plot about one man's obsession to be on a Big Brother-like reality show and the devastating affect it has on him and his family.
What starts off as a joke and an attempt to impress his children, eventually results in a maddening situation for the film's protagonist Luciano (Aniello Arena), who starts to imagine everyone around him is testing him so that he can finally be chosen to appear on the show.
As the title of the film suggests, like the mad fans of television shows Luciano reaches a point where he creates his own version of reality.
Although at times disturbing, Reality is often entertaining and it is beautifully shot. The film won the Grand Prix of the Jury (second prize) at Cannes after Amour.
Image: A scene from Reality
Valley of Saints
Indian American filmmaker Musa Syeed's Valley of Saints is like a quiet poem and a homage to Kashmir, where his father was born.
But under Syeed's direction, Valley of Saints does not make strong political statements and there is no in-your-face message in the film.
Rather, the film deals with two friends -- shikarawallahs in Srinagar, the environment around them, how it impacts their lives and their interactions with a Kashmiri woman who is doing research on the Dal Lake.
While things are not easy of the friends, Valley of Saints still finds moments of happiness. There is a heartwarming tone in the film and that explains why it won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Image: A scene from Valley of Saints