Women call the shots

The 18th edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star has a decided focus on female talent

The gender focus in Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star grows stronger in its 18th year. The film festival opens with Indian actor Konkana Sen Sharma’s directorial debut A Death in the Gunj, which ironically is about “conflicted ideas of masculinity”. There’s also a new MasterCard Best Indian Female Filmmaker Award, besides the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality Award that was announced earlier this year.

While the Excellence in Cinema International Award goes to Jia Zhangke, the leading light of the post-Tiananmen, highly individualistic and political sixth generation Chinese cinema, the Excellence in Cinema Award, India, is being given, most deservingly, to the much-loved filmmaker Sai Paranjape, who laid bare the quirks, dilemmas and crises of middle-class India with humour, humanity and affection in films as diverse as Sparsh, Katha, Chashme Buddoor and Disha.

The buck doesn’t stop at that. There are about eight films by women filmmakers, including Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick under My Burkha, about the small dreams and little rebellions of women in mofussil India, and Shirley Abraham and Amit Madhesiya’s The Cinema Travellers, which transports us to the world of nomadic cinemas that have been taking the magic of the movies closer to audiences in rural Maharashtra.

The unveiling of the new logo and trophy was also done by a woman: actor Kangana Ranaut. No surprise, when the festival is managed by some dynamic women: festival director Anupama Chopra, creative director Smriti Kiran, chairperson Kiran Rao, co-chair Nita Ambani, and many others behind the scenes.

According to Chopra, the reason for the focus is also because gender is an area that is attracting a lot of attention and interest when it comes to cinema. But it’s going to be what she refers to as an “inclusive movie feast”, one that will have a film for everyone. “The programme is very strong,” says Chopra. It’s going to be 175 films from 54 countries that include some celebrated Indian ones like Haobam Paban Kumar’s Lady of The Lake, Sudhanshu Saria’s romantic Loev, and An Insignificant Man on the Aam Aadmi Party by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Tewari. The country focus will be on Turkey and will hopefully expose the viewers to films beyond those made by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

The most popular world cinema section has many big names and titles to boast of. At first glance, the ones that caught our eye were Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait by Bhutanese Buddhist monk and filmmaker Khyentse Norbu (who made a delightful debut with The Cup), Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, Pablo Larrain’s Neruda, Daniel Kwan’s Swiss Army Man, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, Christian Munjiu’s Graduation, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, Hirokazu Koreeda’s After the Storm, Dileep Mehta’s Mostly Sunny, and more.

As we dig deeper into the programme to discover the gems, a festival insider has told us that the pièce de résistance of the festival are two treasures from the restored classics section. The 1965 Polish swashbuckler The Sargossa Manuscript and the 1959 Pakistani-Bangladeshi film Jaago Hua Savera (The Day Shall Dawn), directed by A.J. Kardar. With a screenplay by revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz based on an original story by Bengali writer Manik Bandopadhay, it has often been described as the only neo-realist film to have emerged from Pakistan in that era. The film, about the trials and tribulations of fishermen and their exploitation at the hands of money lenders in a small village near Dhaka, won a top award at the Moscow Film Festival in 1959. A confluence of talent from East Pakistan, West Pakistan and India (Timir Baran co-composed the music with Nauman Taseer) the highlight of the film is an outstanding performance by Tripti Mitra (of the Indian People’s Theatre Association). The film was also Pakistan’s entry to the Oscars for the best foreign film.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 11:32:42 PM |

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