Short takes: The film festival brought in huge crowds, but the choice of films could certainly have been better

Gone are the days when there were more voyeurs than serious viewers at international film festivals. Festivals were famous mostly for films that had escaped the sharp scissors of the censors. BIFFES, in its sixth year still experiences teething trouble but things are definitely improving. The schedule was not ready till the eve but that just made it more intriguing. You have to empathise with the organizers because of the shoestring budget. Luckily, there were not many last minute cancellations.

You go to film festivals not only for the scrumptious fare on offer but also the atmosphere. You see familiar faces, regulars as well as enthusiastic students. You meet the garrulous as well as the grumpy. It’s a window to a cross section of countries and cultures you may never visit, like Latvia. The common area outside the screens looks like people are about to take a life changing examination. There are people of all age groups poring over the menu of movies on offer, referring to the synopsis before deciding. Smart phones have made selection easier. Youngsters just refer to the IMDB rating. The young band of well-mannered volunteers does make it easy, especially when aiding senior citizens. The main problems are caused by irresponsible viewers who saunter in late and let their phones ring and even answer them! It’s impossible to watch everything on offer. ‘Love and Lemons’, a Swedish film based on a successful novel is definitely not festival material not because it’s not drab and dreary but it’s just another feel good enterprise. It’s about a chef who’s fired and dumped by her boyfriend on the same day. It’s about her phoenix like rise from the brink of professional and emotional obscurity. Now I definitely don’t mean films at festivals should not make you laugh but this is just another, utterly predictable mainstream film.

‘Kolka Kool’ a Latvian film directed by Juris Poskus takes a cynical look at a band of young, aimless friends who while away their time drinking and fighting. The arrival of the protagonists elder brother from the sea causes an upheaval in the emotional equations. The film, thoughtfully shot in black and white reflects the arid landscape and the colourless mindset of the characters. ‘In Bloom’ set in post Soviet Union Georgia is a riveting tale of two pubescent friends oblivious to the world crumbling outside. They are busy warding off goons, gossiping and goofing around till one of them is trapped into marrying a local tough. The performances by the two young girls Lika and Mariam make this interesting film special.

The one film I looked forward to watching was ‘The Past’ directed by Asghar Farhadi (The Separation) and it didn’t disappoint. Set in Paris about a man who returns from Iran to nullify his marriage it’s an emotional whodunit. It’s a cauldron of emotions with first rate performances from the protagonists’ right down to the kids. The print of Andrzej Wajda’s ‘Katyn’ that was projected was an insult to the auteur especially since the content was brilliant.

You usually avoid Indian films because of the access. The surprise was there was a mini riot for seats in the screen showing the critically acclaimed Kannada film ‘Jatta’ forcing the organizers to have a repeat show immediately after. “I only wish the response had been half as good when the film was released,” sighed producer Raj Kumar. The talented director Giriraj nodded solemnly in agreement.

Mail the writer at sshivu@yahoo.com

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