MAMI 2017 Report: Best films from 19th Mumbai Film Festival

Yes, it’s a month late, but i thought that the recommendations in here would come in handy for those who are attending upcoming film festivals like IFFI, IFFK and PIFF.

As usual, the MAMI organised Mumbai Film Festival this year, too, had a great line-up of films from across the globe. But their selection of Indian films (especially Marathi) left a lot to be desired. Apart from the films, any report cannot miss the fact that how well organised this year’s event was compared to previous years. There were no major technical issues with any screenings and even the much feared BookMyShow booking system worked smoothly.

I watched fewer films this year but that meant i didn’t waste time watching abjectly bad movies. Of course, the strategy also meant that i missed out on a few gems as well. So, these are the ones i would highly recommend:

Chavela (4.5/5)
I entered the movie hall knowing nothing about the Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, but by the end of the film I was totally in love with her music and her personality! It may not be the most skillful documentary (a lot of talking heads), but it does do justice to the lives and times of Chavela Vargas. May be because i watched it with absolutely no expectations and fell head over heels in love with her voice, but i enjoyed this film more than any other at MAMI this year. Unforgettable experience!

Sweet Country (4.5/5)
A haunting, raw and visually arresting Western set in the Australian outback in the early 1900s tells a tragic tale of the not-so-sweet treatment of the indigenous tribes of the continent by the ruthless Western colonizers. It’s one of those quietly impactful films that linger in your mind even long after the end credits have rolled. The storytelling is guided by the crafty editing with its rather imaginative use of flash-forwards and flashbacks.

It Comes at Night (4/5)
A post-apocalyptic psychological thriller that masterfully builds its tense atmosphere by seeking to explore what man is capable of doing when things get desperate. Terrific stuff! A director whose career I am going to follow closely.

On Body and Soul (4/5)
Probably the most inventive romantic film I have seen since the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The female lead character Marina has become one of my most favourites!

A Fantastic Woman (4/5)
A heart-wrenchingly beautiful character study about the harassment, discrimination and humiliation faced by a transgender woman in modern day Chile. The trans actress Daniela Vega has given the most affecting performance of the year!

One of the best moments from the Chilean film Fantastic Woman

Wajib (4/5)
One of those little gems that are much more nuanced than they seem on the apparent level. It had the most beautiful screenplay of all the films I had seen at the fest.

Loving Vincent (4/5)
For once, I didn’t mind style determining the content here. This marvel of an animated film paints a picture of Van Gogh using his own images. It proclaims to be the first film to be made fully from oil paint. I don’t think the master painter could have got a better tribute, but I still can’t help wondering if it was possible to get all the oil paint effect on a computer.

Other Side of Hope (3.5/5)
My first Kaurismaki and fell in love with the quirky, humourous world he creates.
The Square (3.5/5)
A biting satire on the European art-world that will leave you thinking about it even days after you have watched it. The kind of film which grows on you. Also, it has the most singularly crazy scene of this year!

A still from the most wild and crazy scene of the year from the Palm d’or winner ‘The Square’

Blade of the Immortal (3.5/5)

Takeshi Miike in great touch in what is reportedly his 100th film. It was a relief to watch a gory, action-packed samurai drama between the heavy-duty ‘festival films’.

Loveless (3.5/5)
A detached but deeply affecting film that sharply criticizes the ‘lovelessness’ that is spreading like a plague in the Russian society.

Last Flag Flying (3.5/5)
Essentially a buddy road movie about 3 middle aged men, but trust Linklater to make proceedings funny and engaging. May not be as deep and profound like his previous films, but still has enough subtext and humour to elevate it from mediocrity.

The Florida Project (3/5)
A deeply moving film about a precocious 6 year-old and her struggling single mother, providing a stark picture of a particular section of modern day America that is seldom seen in movies. I did begin to lose interest in the middle as the film became repetitive and was seemingly going nowhere, till the heartbreaking final scene arrived.

Third Murder (3/5)
The kind of courtroom drama which is lot deeper than just the case in hand. Superbly acted with a beautiful background score, Kore-eda’s latest film is a thoughtful exploration of truth and also a mild critique of the death sentence. However, the film did test my patience towards the end.


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