Notes from the ongoing 43rd International Film Festival of India at Goa

“Life of Pea,” a young man confidently read out the name of the opening film while standing in the long queue on Day One in response to his friend’s query.

It was an unusual crowd that had gathered at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) to watch Ang Lee’s much-awaited adaptation of Yann Martel’s award-winning book Life of Pi.

Unfortunately, the venue Kala Academy despite a seating capacity of 954 had what seemed like a home theatre for a screen. Considering the festival was playing a 3D film, it didn’t seem to be the best equipped theatre either. Not all those who were waiting made it inside and those who made it late, had to settle for seats that didn’t really make for ideal 3D viewing.

IFFI’s only serious rival, the Mumbai Film Festival, last month shifted to a swanky 1,100 seater auditorium that ensured that everyone who queued up always got a seat.

While it is good that these two festivals are trying to do better than the other, it is rather disappointing that India’s biggest State-run film festival didn’t make sure the opening film played at all its venues, especially after lining up a film of a much higher profile than Silver Linings Playbook that opened the Mumbai Film Festival!

* * *

It was another mad race for tickets to watch Kim Ki Duk’s Pieta (Day 2) that won the Golden Lion at Venice. The big bonus for many was the presence of the auteur himself who was happy to entertain questions with his usual poetic flair at the end of his brilliantly dark and gritty unconventional revenge tale that hits you with its brutally disturbing images. Pieta has many elements we have come to associate with Kim Ki Duk since his debut film Crocodile. His protagonist is once again the scum of the world, an immensely despicable character seeking redemption for his sins and there’s the strong suffering heroine to put him in his place. This gripping film with animal cruelty and extreme violence left many flinching in their seat.

After being asked over half-a-dozen irrelevant questions through his interpreter, most of them basic clarifications on the fairly self-explanatory narrative, Kim Ki Duk diplomatically said it was a very different kind of Q&A compared to the other festivals he had been to. The South Korean filmmaker sprung a surprise by singing ‘Arirang’ (the lullaby his previous documentary film was based on) for the audience. Pieta, he said earlier, explores that bittersweet theme of ‘Arirang’ further — of life’s duality — the sweet and the sour.

It was a treat for fans of the filmmaker since IFFI had also lined up a retrospective of four other films of Kim Ki Duk — Breath, Time, The Bow and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.

* * *

Everyday, that played on Day 3, was an experimental film from Michael Winterbottom who had shot the film over a span of five years with the same actors for two weeks a year, just to document aging of children during a separation.

Nothing dramatic happens till the very end as we just watch a family of five (the mother and her four children) deal with the pangs of being away from the man of the house who is spending his time in prison. Winterbottom, as evident from the title wanted to keep it real, like a slice of everyday life. But the routine and the mundane content put many to sleep.

Everyday is the longest 90-minute film. You fall asleep, wake up and see that nothing has happened except that the children look a year older, every few scenes. By the end, you feel you’ve aged five years along with them. Winterbottom told us later that initially he was just going to cast the youngest of the siblings, Shaun Kirk, but changed his mind when he saw that this young actor was most comfortable with his siblings. To keep it realistic, Winterbottom cast all four kids as brothers and sisters to make it look more like a documentary. Though he has extracted natural performances from the cast, especially the children, we were tempted to ask: To see kids age through a story, why not just rent out Harry Potter films and watch them back to back?

* * *

Lucy Mulloy’s sensuous Cuban film Una Noche, turned out to be among the best of the films screened at the fest. With its strikingly bright and saturated frames, this is a film that will make you fall in love with Cuba and dread it too. As we follow the lives of three young people who want to escape from Cuba by sea by building a contraption using car tubes, wood from coffins and an engine, there’s never a dull moment in this fast-paced thriller that is simultaneously dark and funny.

Like Life of Pi, the latter half of this film features the three central characters, adrift at sea. With no tiger or camera-friendly sea creatures, Lucy crafts quite a riveting political film that also explores sexuality, morality and homophobia.

* * *

Pink, directed by Jeon Soo Il sounded like an interesting film to catch on Day 4. And what a tiring watch it turned out to be despite being darkly quirky and morbidly eccentric.

The film packs quite a few shots of unwarranted graphic nudity from the very first frame. Bizarre and hard hitting the slow long takes and deadpan expressions from the actors make it less engaging and sometimes unintentionally funny.