IFFI 2017 FILMS: Films to open up the windows of the mind, a contrasting study about how they live in the countries of the West, the Middle East and South East Asia, and how we live in India!

LAST day IFFI and I was feeling quite blue, my dears. No more running away from home and office to see a film! It’s a bit of escapism from life’s grim realities really. Sometimes I ask myself if this is why so many of us are hooked on films from home and abroad? Never mind that I think that some films can educate and maybe grow up in the best sense of the word. In fact, I think all educational institutions should set aside one day in a week just to see a cross-section of films selected by a discerning staff committee… it would be invaluable in terms of broadening the spaces of the mind and letting in some fresh air.

Remember what Mahatma Gandhi said about keeping the windows of the mind open so that all kinds of influential winds may blow in and out and yet one must not get blown away. It makes sense. I’ve been with IFFI right from its inception in 2004 and experienced its highs and lows. Some things have changed for the better, some things remain the same.

This time around I’m convinced that if all one is interested in is films it’s best to avoid opening and concluding films at the formal star-spangled ceremonies. Skip the temptation of witnessing the exclusive glamorous opening/closing film hoopla of seeing film stars and political bigwigs with kith and kin engaged in red carpet and selfie moments. Hey, media and delegates scramble for invites but they may witness the goings-on only from a safe distance only.

This time around too I realized it’s wiser to skip opening and closing films at the Kala Academy’s Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium. If there’s another offer to delegates of seeing the films at the INOX auditoriums take that offer! Quite simply because at the Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium you may end up waiting indefinitely for the film to roll — hey, a three-quarter filled auditorium waited for up to an hour on the evening of Nov 28, 2017, for the VIP entourage to arrive after the closing ceremony extravaganza at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium.

Not surprisingly security and traffic jams delayed their arrival and I found myself waiting in the Kala Academy auditorium along with others with bona fide invitations to see the film — Pablo Cesar’s Thinking of Him (a film based on Rabindranath Tagore’s visit to Argentina). With me was a restless friend who kept muttering, “They have no respect for us… let’s walk out, I’m not going to wait for more than hour to see a bloody film!”

I walked out with him wishing ruefully that we’d gone off to the INOX auditoriums to see the film …hey, none in the organizing team guarding the VIP seats in the auditorium even had the grace to keep the waiting audience informed about the delay, not even an apology. Why should any audience have to wait like this for a scheduled 6.30 pm film which finally rolled past 7.30 pm?

SO I didn’t see the last film and lived to regret it later, maybe I should have waited like the others did. In India we may always take the patience of an audience for granted! This is to say there are always IFFI joys and blues when it arrives and when it departs… it’s the only time of the year when I look forward to seeing films and this time around although I was able to see only a dozen or so films, most of them were well worth it. It’s a treat to see films on the big screen and I avoid seeing them on the idiot box or courtesy smart phone apps of today’s digitally challenged times.

The films which remain in memory from the international sections are Summer 1993, Pomegranate Orchard, Marionette, Mother, Bloody Milk and On Body and Soul; from the Indian sections I made it to Village Rockstars, Kadvi Hawa and Mother.

Pomegranate Orchard (Nar Bagi in the original from Azerbaijani, directed by Ilgar Najaf) weaves a slow lyrical story of a father hanging on to his much-loved pomegranate orchard to make ends meet for his daughter-in-law and grandson.

He has two precious sons. His favourite died in an accident earlier on and the second fled… only to reappear from Russia after 14 years. Father, wife, son all welcome and rejoice in his return and there’s hope in the air, the only son is back home to help run the pomegranate orchard. Alas, not so. This son has emotional baggage from the past and he works on regaining his  young son’s trust and seduces his wife anew, cons his old father into selling the pomegranate orchard and absconds with the money back to Russia (where if you please another wife and a kidnapped daughter waits to be released with ransom money)! The old man looks out at his pomegranate trees and murmurs with infinite finality, “I have no son.” His grandson starts seeing pomegranates as black instead of the vivid red they are….

I don’t understand how IFFI’s jury thinks that India’s Sexy Durga and Nude are unfit for viewing but South Korea’s Marionette is — I was in two minds about walking out on this film. It’s a film typical of many Korean films steeped in depicting explicit sexual violence. The story revolves around high school students filming porno videos to make a fast buck and both staff and students are victimized ruthlessly. It is a ghastly film, I find Korean writer-director Lee Hanuk’s script totally unacceptable. Must one make films which can double as a guide to making profitable porno videos for mass circulation?

American films can be very complex and densely metaphorical. The Darren Aronofsky-directed Mother packs a powerful punch, leaving one quite dazed afterwards trying to make sense of the myriad messages about life’s complexities from the male and female points of view; central to the film is a scathing attack on reducing creation, the very act of giving birth, to a painful crucifixion or so to speak. An utterly grand film. Director Hubert Chauel’s Bloody Milk or Petit Paysan is a French film translating to “small farmer” actually and after seeing it I don’t feel like drinking milk or eating dairy products ever. It’s about the mad cow epidemic which hits small dairy farmers —  a blow to the industrialization of animals for dairy milk and products. Please leave your cows alone in the natural setting of grassy pastures and don’t exploit them so mercilessly no matter how much you may love them!

Many films from the West detail the devastating results of failed relationships and as in how difficult we make life for ourselves and each other. On Body and Soul (Tesrol Es Lelekrol, a film from Hungary directed by Ildiko Enyedi), won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. In a Budapest slaughterhouse two introverted colleagues learn to trust themselves vis-à-vis love and loving again,  a sensitive story against the backdrop of a deer  population living gracefully in the  snowy woods outside the factory. The film offers us in India how what goes in the mind can mess up the body for sure and we may learn a thing or two from the silence of animals in the wild.

What would I do without IFFI for inspiration to live! This is to say avjo, poiteverem, selamat datang, au revoir, arrivedecci and vachun yeta to IFFI till next year again.

– Mme Butterfly


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