Few Films from PIFF 2016

Here are some films that I saw at Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) 2016 earlier this month. I have added their trailers along with my comments about the films. I am hoping to write in details about at least few of them later on this blog.

(1)  The Thin Yellow Line/Delgada Linea Amarilla (Mexico/Spanish): This was the opening film of PIFF-2016. It was an impressive festival film about 5 men hired to paint the lines on a road. These men are of different ages, and oldest one has a son who ran away from his house while the youngest one has run away from his home due to his parents’ fights. While doing this work in a desert, these men develop good rapport and share some laughter and agonies.

(2) Perfect Obedience/Obediencia perfecta
(Mexico/Spanish): It is a disturbing story of a  young seminarian Julian and his journey to achieve “the perfect obedience”.  Based on a true story, this is a debut film of the director Luis Urquiza. It captures malpractices that often occur behind the closed doors of  religious institutions, in this case the Church. Its depiction of disgraced Catholic priest Marcial Maciel created quite some shockwaves in Mexico. It is quite disturbing and not so subtle hints of abuse are scary. One disturbing yet powerful image that stayed with me from this cinema was Julian talking with the priest among a herd of lambs. I cannot say that I liked this one, but it certainly made an impact!

(3) The Head Hunter (India/Arunachali):
I managed to see this one by chance since other two screens at Citypride-Kothrud were incredibly crowded. This one tells the story of a tribal man living alone in the ancient forest inhabited by his ancestors and his manipulation by urban youth for “development”. As its director Nilanjan Datta said, it is a conflict between identity, heritage of tribals and urban development. The cinematography of this film is really outstanding and main protagonist is played by a non-actor, real tribal. Though with simple and predictable screenplay, this is an important film as it narrates unknown story from north-east India in Arunachali language (first film in the tribal dialect with lot of Hindi And English in it) which is largely an unexplored territory.

(4) Snow Pirates/Kar Korsanlari (Turkey/Turkish):
This is a brilliant film set on the backdrop of scarcity and military coops during 1980. It is a story of children aged between 12-14 and their games, their understanding of responsibilities and their tactics as they strive hard to procure some coal to keep their homes warm in the freezing cold and snow. The white snow becomes one overpowering image as well as important character in this film as you get involved in the adventures of these children as well as their innocence.  I liked this film immensely!

(5) Money Buddies/La Buca (Italy/Italian):
This is a lighthearted film about an unscrupulous lawyer and an innocent man who spent 27 years in the prison for a crime that he never committed. Though funny in parts, the film is not very effective in my opinion and court scene makes it even more ineffective. Didn’t like it much!

(6) The Quest/Ringan (India/Marathi):
It is a story of father & son duo and the father’s struggle to pay his debt and make his innocent son aware of his mother’s death. The film has excellent story, powerful performances by lead actors and intricate undercurrents of draught, plight of farmers and so on. Though I think it is way too verbose – somehow Indian films have far too many dialogues and not many of them explore rich visual language of the cinema.

It is not yet released in India but has general feel-good drama in it and I believe it should do good business.

(7) Carte Blanche (Poland/Polish):
This is a story of a middle-aged high-school teacher who discovers that he is losing his eyesight slowly and doctors see no hope. While travelling with his mother in his car, his mother dies in an accident and this trauma aggravates his condition. He hides his health condition from his school and outside world and only confides in his close friend and fellow teacher from the school.  He tries to develop relationship with his colleague Ewa, and also helps his rebel student while struggling with his inevitable blindness. The film is based on a true story and its director Jacek Lusinski has captured this incredible struggle of the teacher beautifully.

(8) Taxi/Taxi Tehran (Iran/Irani):
This is a famous and well-known film by Jafar Panahi, he is banned from making movies by the Iranian government, and he faced great challenges in making his films and making them available to the world. Its first screening at Inox, Pune turned out to be quite eventful as some people from previous show simply refused to vacate the hall and Inox management had to call cops to vacate the cinema hall. In the process we waited for almost 2 hours in the queue to watch this film.

Taxi is an interesting film – Jafar Panahi poses as a taxi driver and makes a movie about social challenges in Iran. Though comments by pirated film seller, his niece and other taxi passengers seem natural and funny, they offer a window to the problems related to freedom of expression in Iran. You can also watch this entire film on YouTube.

(9) Immortal/Mamiroo (Iran/Irani):
It is the story of old Ayaz and his grandson Ebrahim. Ayaz is guilt-ridden as his entire family dies in an accident in the bus that he was driving. He tries to commit suicide repeatedly and his grandson tries to save him. The entire journey of his suffering and his pain is deeply moving and disturbing. It is a powerful, impact-making film. Sometimes those powerful visuals from a film stay engraved in your mind forever – and  Immortal/Marimoo is one such film, Papusza is another one such film that I remember from PIFF 2014. Immortal/Marimoo is a visual storytelling feast – its awesome frames exemplify why Cinema is a visual language. This is something I don’t see many Indian film-makers using effectively. Most our films are too verbose, as I mentioned about ‘The Quest/Ringan’.

In Immortal/Marimoo guilt-ridden Ayaz looks so feeble and helpless as he tries to kill himself repeatedly against those never-ending barren lands. Then those colours during wedding look stunning… and the way Hadi Mohaghegh depicts suffering of being a human is amazing! This is a disturbing, painful, depressing yet a beautiful film. Watch it on big screen if you get a chance, it should not be missed!!

For me this was the best film that I have seen in this festival. I hope to write in more details about Immortal.

(1o) Deliver Us/Iadya Mo Kami (Philipines/Filipino):
It is a story of young priest father Greg who is assigned to a parish up in the mountains. He is in relationship with a young and beautiful woman and also has a child from her. One night he finds dead body of an influential person from the town and among others, the police suspects him as well. He resolves to help cops to find the real killer, in the process it leads him to the discovery of his own personal salvation.

I didn’t like it much – many story subplots seemed right out of a mediocre Bollywood script and the story itself was quite dismal. It is rather avoidable.

(11) Island City (India/Hindi-Multilingual):
This is a brilliant movie directed by Ruchika Oberoi. It is a collage of three stories which appear to be separate yet subtly related and interwoven in the city of Mumbai. They all portray loneliness that many experience in this crowded city hustling & bustling all the time. The subtle but powerful narrative, excellent use of visual elements, black humour and unique screenplay make it a very impressive film.

The first story of a middle-aged employee in a highly disciplined corporate settings revolves around Vinay Pathak and ends in a shocking incident. The second one depicts a middle-class family where dominating husband/father is on critical life-support system and the family finds relief in daily TV soap. The director Oberoi has used daily soap “Purushottam”  brilliantly in the narration of this story. The third story shows life of a simple girl from lower middle-class background who is about  to get married to a businessman who hardly has any time or feelings for her.  One day she receives a love letter from an unknown person and replies to it, starting a chain of such letters only to end with another shock. All three stories show certain disconnect and superficial human relations  in the metro.

I believe this film is not yet released in India and I am planning to watch it again on big screen whenever it releases. Though I have my doubts about commercial success of this film, it is a promising film that shouldn’t be missed.

(12) Risk Of Acid Rain/Ehtemal-s Baran-e Asidi (Iran/Irani):
This is a story of retired, unmarried 60-year old Manouchehr (played wonderfully by famous poet Shams Lageroodi) as he is trying to cope up with his loneliness and retired life. He travels to Tehran to find his old friend Khosrow. In his attempt to find his only friend, he befriends male receptionist at the hotel and a young girl who has ran away from a rehabilitation clinic. They end up helping each other and become close despite their obvious differences. These three enjoy and stand for their friendship as the film progresses. This is a slow film with subtle humour that unwinds pain of loneliness, seeking comfort in human relations and friendship. I found it quite enriching.


(13)  Ranga Patanga (India/Marathi):  I managed to watch this one accidentally but it kept me hooked. This is a story of poor farmer Jumman from Vidarbha (India) who has lost his oxen: Ranga & Patanga. When he tries to report it to the police, they refuse to lodge his complaint. As it turns out, media looking for sensational news picks up his story and follows up on TV to start uncontrollable chain of events. The story is funny yet touching and it unfolds misery of poor farmers quite well. It also depicts exploitation of communal angle by media, politicians, natives and inherent symbiosis of the villagers quite realistically. The humour is sharp, dialogues are crisp and they need special mention. The screenplay is neat and handles undercurrents and sub-plots quite well. This film won best Marathi film award at PIFF 2016 and should be released shortly.

(14) Pikadero (Spain/Basque-Spanish):
It is a much acclaimed film that goes beyond a simple love story and presents a slice of contemporary life from Basque Country, an autonomous region of Spain. It is a story of penniless, young couple (Gorka-Ane) in a relationship and trying to find place to make love, called “picaderos” locally. The film depicts humiliations of the economic crisis through its simple and humourous narrative. It goes beyond its apparent story of the young couple and shows life and emotions of the people experiencing economic crisis, struggling to find better, permanent jobs. The director Ben Sharrock brilliantly captures lack of suitable work and how it affects mentality of the youth in the country and their despair.

(15) The Plastic Cardboard Sonata (Italy/Italian):
It is a story of a real estate agent who is selling houses in the newly developing suburb of the city, and as he tries to show, a perfect neighbourhood for young people.  The truth behind this ideal suburb is his little secret: he pays group of people to walk around and have small, casual but encouraging conversations with him as he tries to sell houses to the prospective clients. This is yet another story of urban loneliness and daily life malaise.  Though impressive in pieces, I somehow didn’t like the overall film experience.

(16) Lens  (India/English-Hindi-Tamil-Malyalam):  
This was one of the most impressive Indian films at PIFF this year.  This is a story of a middle-aged man (wonderfully portrayed by the director Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan himself) addicted to porn and getting involved in sex-chats with women on the Internet. This thriller takes unexpected turn when the girl, Nikki asks him to watch her commit suicide online. During their Skype talk lot of skeletons start coming out of the closet. The direction, performances as well as the treatment of the film are excellent. The screenplay of this film is brilliantly well-written by the director himself and keeps you on the edge of the seat as any good thriller should. Moreover, it goes beyond  being a thriller and makes one ponder about social and ethical implications of porn, sex chats and voyeurism.

During its first screening it received non-stop 5 minutes applause for the director and the applause continued as director Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan answered questions for the next 15 minutes. This is a must watch film and I hope to write about it in more details later.

Some Ramblings:

The Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) is getting better response every year and the number of delegates is also growing tremendously. The management of the festival makes one wonder if the organizers can cope with the number of delegates flocking the screens. Volunteers from local management college show utmost irreverence for the tradition of the festival and often misbehave with the delegates. A small casual chat reveals that they have little knowledge and interest in this type of cinema – they just do it as a part of their management education.  The organizers should choose or train the volunteers better. This was more than obvious in Citypride, Kothurd during PIFF as it happens to be the most crowded festival destination with all those juries and directors present there. Due to this, I decided to stay away from this destination on the weekend and settled for Inox instead, which also had its share of troubles during the screening of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi when cops had to intervene to ensure smooth screening.

Besides the films mentioned above I also captured few films partially, but decided to walk out as I didn’t find them interesting. Mind you, I don’t lose interest in films easily. I’ll just mention them briefly here and please note that these are my personal opinions – don’t flame me explaining why these films are great! 🙂

  1. Diary Of A Chambermaid/Journal d’une femme de chambre (France/French): Story of a lady who works as chambermaid with families, her experiences and life of other servants. I watched most of it, but it was turning out to be quite predictable and boring. IMHO, strictly mediocre.
  2. I Am Not Angry/Asabani Nistam (Iran/Irani):  I watched it for first few minutes but classroom debates, superficial arguments and that romance seemed quite avoidable. I decided to leave and watch another film.
  3. Anurag (India/Marathi): Arguably the most amateurish and poorly crafted film of PIFF 2016. Story of a couple which is trying to rediscover romance and love in their relationship. For the most part of it, it shows breathtakingly beautiful locations from Leh-Ladakh but the dialogues are unbelievably artificial and rhetoric.  Moreover, it is not only for a small duration – it is present throughout the film.  Avoidable!

Besides the films, one wonderful experience was listening to Jahnu Barua (his ‘Long Walk To The Sea’ is one of my favourites), Girish Kasaravalli and Subhash Ghai talking about Ritwik Ghatak. Kasaravalli especially was quite articulate and explained Ghatak’s approach very meticulously. Barua was quite humble and mentioned that Ghatak’s approach was that of a person who hasn’t recovered from trauma of partition. Ghai moderated discussion quite well and also narrated some of his experiences with Ritwik Ghatak.

Jahnu Barua, Girish Kasarwalli and Subhash Ghai discussing Ritwik Ghatak's films

Jahnu Barua, Girish Kasarwalli & Subhash Ghai discussing Ritwik Ghatak’s films in PIFF 2016


Some Reflections:

World cinema offers a wonderful slice of life from different countries and cultures, it offers an insightful perspective about life itself as different people from diverse cultures understand it. What stayed with me from PIFF 2016 is the universal need of people for human relations, love and companionship. Ayaz from Immortal/Marimoo lives in rather humble conditions in a desert, but what really breaks him is the loss of his family and relations he shared with them – and to make it worse, his own guilt that he was responsible for their fatal accident. The loneliness of Manouchehr from Risk Of Acid Rain and his longing for friendship haunt you – so does urban isolation and lack of human relations from Island City and The Plastic Cardboard Sonata.  You can feel pain of the old man who couldn’t find his son in The Thin Yellow Line. The separation of young Julian from his family in Perfect Obedience disturbs,  while love of father & son in The Quest/Ringan warms your heart. There are many such human elements in most of thees films that try to explore our universal human need to connect and relate to other human beings. Watching these festival films is always an enriching experience and it often helps in understanding life a bit better!


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