I love a good film festival.  In Melbourne I would always go to the International Film Festival that came to town each year. For someone who is not so creative, I seem to have a lot of friends who are in the arts, and a few of my close ones in Australia are film-makers.  It sometimes meant I saw some rather obscure film festivals too, like the Dungog Film Festival, which I went to just before I left Australia.

So when I heard that Mumbai had its own International Film Festival I had to sign up.  Interestingly the whole process of signing up wasn’t quite as easy as I had assumed it would be. I couldn’t just turn up and buy a ticket to see a particular film, I had to buy a season pass (regardless of how many or few films I wanted to see).  I figured it would be worth it, so for  Rs 1,050 (about $21) I purchased my season pass online.

I then receive an email telling me to pick up my pass at a venue in town.  For those who don’t know Mumbai well, I live in North Mumbai, in a suburb called Bandra.  A trip to town can be quite a chore.  To get there by car can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours depending upon traffic. Apparently I couldn’t ask anyone to pick up my pass for me, and so off to town I went one day. Luckily for me, collecting the pass wasn’t a huge issue, it was actually quite a smooth process once I was there.

Unfortunately for one of my friends, she wasn’t able to pick up her pass in person due to work commitments, so her pass to the film festival was wasted. Surely there are other ways to do this, without assuming everyone has hours in their day to travel across the city!

I started looking into selecting which films that I wanted to see. There were about 200 to choose, and I was really impressed with the diversity of films, genres and nationalities represented. Unfortunately, you couldn’t select a film and reserve a seat, but rather it was first in best dressed.  This meant in some instances, arriving at least an hour in advance to stand in a queue. It was a little painful, but worth it to see a good film I guess.

Selecting a film and getting there in time to queue wasn’t the only challenge though, twice I was on transit to get to a theatre, and thanks to modern technology, just happened to check Twitter, only to find the film I was going to see had been cancelled or postponed.  The Festival organisers claimed technical problems, perhaps there were, but honestly I have never seen so many “technical” problems at a film festival before. So unfortunately, I didn’t get to see as many films as I would have liked over the one week festival, but I did see a few very different films, here are some that I made it to:

Amour

This film is just fantastic.  It won the Palme D’Or in Cannes and portrays love from the perspective of an elderly couple, one of whom experiences a stroke.  The film is both heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.  Rather than showing the thrill of first love and all the Hollywood / Bollywood clichés that go with that, this film shows the true meaning of the words “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”.

Beautifully done, touching and honest.

Stories We Tell

This Canadian documentary is the story of the director and her discovery of her true biological parentage. It’s an interesting tale, told from the perspective of all the people involved, except the key character, her mother, who had passed away.  I always find families, how the members relate and how each member remembers events differently, quite interesting.  I think this is something a lot of families experience, and this  film demonstrates quite well how many different perspectives there can be to one fact.

Gangor

Marketed as an Italian film by the festival, there is nothing Italian about this film.  It was filmed in India and focuses on the issue of rape in tribal villages.  I found this film quite disappointing for two reasons.  First, it was told primarily from the perspective of a rather privileged male photographer, yet I believe the film’s objective was to discuss the issue of the treatment of women.  In my opinion, the women and their feelings were not given enough time and focus in the film. Secondly, parts of the film were in Hindi / Bengali, and the film was not subtitled.  For an international film festival, I found this to be a major oversight, particularly when you consider the film was marketed as Italian, so about 90% of the audience was European and clearly not versed in Hindi at all.

The Sapphires

I just had to see an Australian film, for no other reason than to hear the familiar twang of an Australian accent.  Its been a long time since I went home, and occasionally I feel a bit of homesickness, and seeing this film just made it a little bit worse. Strange considering most of the film was based in Vietnam, and the only part of Australia that it showed was the rural country-side, which bears no resemblance to my past urban life. I think there is just something about the Australian attitude that came through in this film and that I sometimes find myself longing for.

The film itself was fun, light, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable.  It wasn’t an example of cinematic genius, but it was exactly what I needed.

So for me that was the Mumbai Film Festival.  I saw some good films, got out and saw some parts of Mumbai I hadn’t visited before, and also experienced a bit of home.  All in all, a great week of entertainment.

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