Entering its 49th year, IFFI, the International Film Festival of India, 2018 edition, took place in the pristine lands of Goa from the 20th to 28th November. But, there was hardly anything satisfying about this festival in almost every way imaginable. Starting from the line-up, which had some Indian films rejected just on the basis of being anti-national to the master-classes which added hardly anything worth of wisdom, this year’s festival was such a drag. Although the Indian film lineup had a few interesting selections, there were very few films to be excited about from the International section.
The management of this year, was poor just like the last year. Perhaps not taking water bottles inside is somewhat justifiable as people can seldom resist a swig of a drink or two inside the auditorium causing a surprise drunk appearance or two, or because of people leaving their bottles back, the management might not have had the crew to clean that up in between the two screenings! But what brainwork went behind the decision to not let a power-bank, a charger or an umbrella inside? Was there going to be some ‘occupational hazard’ because of that?
But anyways, that resulted with people losing many things with the IFFI staff not being clear about the rules. Rules- that was another thing to play with for them. Even after having written on the the ticket, that the booking won’t be viable if one doesn’t reserve the seats before 10 minutes of the actual screening, people were let-in for many screenings. The rush-lines were cancelled even if the seats were vacant. So basically, you would have to stay hungry, thirsty and without the peace of mind if you wanted to take something from the festival as a film-student.
Despite of all these management-issues, I was able to catch a few films that are worth mentioning. There were films like The Image Book, High Life or Ash is Purest White which I would need another viewing to fully comprehend and talk about them, even though I enjoyed most of them. Here are the films that caught my attention and stayed with me long after I left the theater.
And Breathe Normally
A single mother from Iceland and a political asylum seeker from Africa cross paths with each other which results in a stronger bond and getting their lives back on track. By the plot, which seems quite usual and nothing exciting, the film had a lot more to offer. It seems rather unlikely at first how these two women would even want to meet eye to eye with each other. Not ashamed to interact with each other but embarrassed for the choices they made and the inability from the both sides to do anything about them. To come out of their shells, they had to take stronger actions. The Single mother, who had to hide her sexuality and had a drug problem in the past, had many wounds that she couldn’t show. The other woman, who had to hide her identity in order to move on with her life and her family, was not so different. The sentimental tale between these two characters, adds more turns in their lives to make a seemingly predictable result, extremely heart-wrenching one. The character arcs seem more believable by their honest performances. Shot with the required sensibility, it never loses grip with the narration.
What is a family? How do we define a bond? Is it something that has to do with the biological bonds? Or is it what we consider connected by love and empathy? And can something like that be considered a family? If not, why?
The film and the director Hirokazu Koreeda, asks these questions to us and to himself. Telling a story about a family bound by poverty, helplessness by the social circumstances, this film digs deeper in examining the socio-economical state than being only about the family relations. Unlikely circumstances bring these people together as a family which accepts one more member who’s a little girl. Even after realising that she was abandoned by her own parents and what they were doing would legally be kidnapping, they still choose to make her a part of their family. Even she seems happier in this family that wanted her to be a part of them, more than anything. Every other person was trying to fill the spaces in their lives with other people. Everything seems well until the shocking revelations and their own truths. As a result, they had to test their bond and choose the lives accordingly.
Woman at War
This idiosyncratic comedy has a protagonist, a woman, a 49 year old choir director, who’s fighting for global causes amidst the search for the joy of motherhood. During all the absurd gigs the film pulls off, it sustains the humanity of the character and the gives time to the small joys in life among all the issues she’s taking the actions against. Every absurdity was so perfectly placed, especially the musical interludes which captured her feelings in a delicate yet stunning way. The smart play with the switching identities showcased her own need to change herself according to the situations in the social or political environment. Every musical note and every frame made it look significantly different and added to the nature of quirky narration. One of the shots which looked to be inspired by Kubrick’s 2001, was hilariously executed and fit so well with the narrative. The film, as a result of all of this, surpassed my expectations and even turned out to be a crowd-pleaser.
The Wild Pear Tree
Probably his most relatable film, this film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, tells the story of a young, ambitious writer trying to get his book published while dwelling on his relationships within and outside the family. His father, who used to be a teacher, was addicted to gambling. Just when the protagonist was looking to start his own life with the graduation finished, he had to bear the burden of his father’s debts.
The delicate bonds between his father and him or his mother is something that was not particularly new, but writing, pacing among the other factors makes it an earnest attempt in profundity. The cynical lead with his witty remarks about almost everything makes the film rather bittersweet. The surreal dreams and his imaginations were rooted in his own real life. Thus the momentary absurdity or even the metaphors seep us more into it than keeping us distant. The conversations are worth savouring despite of looking much simpler on surface. Not just for showing the time passing in between, the long conversations kept showing the nature of his character, revealing even more about him. The grief, anger, resentment from this coming-of-age tale was something that kept recurring for the generations just like the wild pears. And the next generations will keep digging the well and wasting their youth over petty reasons.
The Gentle Indifference of the World
Another visually stunning film that I witnessed at the festival, this one borrowed its title from a phrase used by Albert Camus. A romance between the two villagers that had to leave their places and move to the city because of the bureaucracy and power-play at work was the near-perfect mix of comedy and the biting tragedy. What looked like a crossover between Aki Kaurismaki and Wes Anderson, it worked surprisingly well together.
The poignant tale was a visual delight with the long takes and symmetrical and consistently low-angle shots gave it a distinct style. For the circumstantial reasons, both of them had to submit to the situations instead of fighting against, no matter how unfair they seem. Their lives get worse with every decision they take, whether it seemed good or bad at the first glance. The minimalistic nature of narration ends on the right note, giving the film a fitting end with the memorable last frame and the melancholy stays with us long after the film ends.