Wednesday, 19 November 2014


The line up of the foreign films at IFFI looks quite impressive not to mention the retrospectives of legends like Krzysztof Kieslowski and contemporary film makers like Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jeon Soo-Il.  Here are 30 films to look out for at IFFI this year


1.    Leviathan (Russia) – If there is one and only one film I could watch at the fest, it would be Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Among other awards, the film won the best screenplay at Cannes earlier this year and has received tremendous critical appreciation.  Zvyagintsev was at IFFI in 2011 when Elena was screened and it won the Best Actress award.

2.  Timbuktu (France, Mali) – Winner of the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes this year, Timbuktu is a film about a place where religious fundamentalists have taken over and how the lives of the people get affected with it

3. The Fool (Russia) – The film won a handful of awards at the Locarno film festival including the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and Junior Jury award. The story is about an honest plumber who fights against a corrupt system in order to help a bunch of tenants. 

4.   Foxcatcher (USA) – The film starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum won director Bennett Miller the Best Director prize at Cannes. It is about an Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler who forges a new partnership with a wealthy man to train and how it affects the relationship with his brother.

5.    A Hard Day (South Korea) – Amidst mostly serious films, there is nothing like a crime thriller to break the monotony.  Screened at Cannes in the Directors Fortnight along with the Toronto and London Festival, the story is about a detective who knocks a man down while driving setting off a chain of events 

6.   Ida (Poland )- Winner of the FIPRESCI prize at Toronto and the Best Film at London Film Festival (and other 30 odd awards), Ida is the story of  a young woman  who is all set to take her vows as a nun when she discovers some family secrets that changes everything. 

7.   Life in a Fishbowl (Iceland) – Iceland’s official submission at the Oscars this year, the story is about a writer who is on a drinking binge and a single mother who has to resort to extremities to make ends meet.

8. Little England (Greece)- Official submission of Greece to the best foreign language film category at the Oscars, this drama of love, passion and relationships set is in the 1930’s.

9. The Postman's White Nights (Russia) – This mid festival film picked up a couple of awards at the Venice film festival including the Silver Lion. The director Andrei Konchalovsky has also made some English films as well like Runaway Train. 

10. Sivas (Turkey) – Winner of the special jury prize at Venice, Sivas is a story about an 11 year old boy and his friendship with a fighting dog named Sivas.  The young boy also won accolades for his performance. 

11.The Theory of Everything (USA)- Director James Marsh won an Oscar for his documentary Man on wire, but this film is based on the life of  the famous Physicist Stephan Hawking and the relationship  with his wife Jane Hawking.  

12.The Tribe (Ukraine)- Winner of the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes, this powerful film is without dialogues or subtitles. It about a deaf mute teenager who struggles to be a part of the boarding school and the film is one of the more remarkable films at the festival. 

13.Turist (Sweden) – Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes, this gripping tale is about a family on a vacation on the French alps which is struck by avalanche. What follows is a family drama.

14.The Way He Looks (Brazil) This crowd pleaser is also Brazil’s submission at the Oscars this year. It is about two teenagers, their friendship and how it changes when another young boy moves to their part of the town.

15.Blind Massage (China) – Winner of the Silver Bear at Berlin, Blind Massage is about a massage parlour where all the employees are, well, blind. This is a film with interesting characters and has bittersweet moments.

16.Charlie’s Country (Australia) – Director Rolf de Heer’s name may not be as popular as some of the other directors from world cinema, but make no mistake, his filmography is highly impressive. This film won David Gulpill (who also acted in de Heer’s Tracker) the best actor award at Cannes in Un Certain Regard. 

17.Behaviour  (Cuba)  - Part of the competition section, this film about a young boy who becomes the breadwinner in his family has won quite a few accolades around the world.

18.Corn Island (Georgia) – Not surprisingly, this stunningly shot film is Georgia’s entry at the Oscars. Impressively directed by George Ovashvili, with minimal dialogues, this story is about a grandfather and his granddaughter who live on a makeshift island.

19.Mommy (Canada) – Xavier Dolan the 25 year old director’s Mommy is a whirlwind of a film.  Brilliant acting, especially from Anne Dorval who has given one of the best performances of the year, Mommy has set the bar very high for Dolan. It shared the Jury prize at Cannes this year with a film that I loathed- Godard’s Goodbye to Language. 

20.Difret (Oblivion, Ethiopia) – Just for the sheer story of guts and glory of a girl who is abducted and escapes from the clutches kidnappers and a lawyer who fights for the girl’s rights, Difret, based on a true story is worth a watch. Anjelina Jolie has also been promoting the film after it caught her attention.

21.Clouds of Sils Maria (France) – Directed by Olivier Assayas (who served on the IFFI jury in 2007) the film stars Juliette Binoche as an actress who is asked to play the role that made her famous couple of decades ago. The film also stars Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz.         

22.Winters Sleep (Turkey) – Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan the film won the top prize, the Palm d’Or at Cannes. It is about an actor turned hotel owner living in Anatolia with his wife with whom he has a tumultuous relationship. The film has a daunting length of 196 minutes but it still is one of the highlights of the festival. 

23.The Look of Silence (USA) – Director Joshua Oppenheimer stunned the world with his documentary The Act of Killing and has followed it up with another remarkable film. Based in Indonesia, a family confronts the men who killed one of their brothers. 

24.The Salt of the Earth (France) – Directed by Wim Wenders and JulianoRibeiro Salgado, this documentary won Prize of the Ecumenical Jury Special Mention and Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes this year. The citation read “This documentary masterpiece about photographer Sebastião Salgado is a compelling testimony of our time and a reflection of the human condition worldwide that shows the possibility of hope for humankind.”

25.A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden) - The final film of the trilogy from director Roy Anderson, the other two being Songs From The Second Floor (2000) and You, The Living (2007), this film with a rather interesting title won the Golden Lion at Venice this year. 

26.Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere (Vietnam) –The film won the Fedeora award at Venice. It is about a young woman who discovers that she is pregnant. Along with her boyfriend, she tries to make money to have an abortion.

27.The Imitation Game (USA, UK) – Based on the life of Alan Turing, the film has wooed critics and audiences alike by winning a handful awards. Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the lead role and since the film is likely to see a theatrical release, don’t punish yourself if you miss it.

28.The Owners (Kazakhstan)  - A young man along with his sick sister and teenage brother are forced to leave their house. When they move to an ancestral house, they discover it is occupied by someone else.

29.Mr. Kaplan (Uruguay) – The country’s entry at the Oscars this year, the story is about an elderly gent who goes on a mission of his own after he suspects that there is a Nazi in hiding.

30.Dearest (China) – This film is about a couple living in a village who are coming to terms with the disappearance of their son.

Apart from these films White Shadow (Italy, Germany), Susanne Bier’s A Second Chance (Denmark Sweden), Cold in July (it made waves at the Sundance festival), Nabat (Azerbaijan’s entry at the Oscars), The Guide (Russia) might just be worth it.

Published in The Navhind Times on 20th Nov 2014

Film Review Kill /Dil

Shoot To Kill

Film: Kill /Dil
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Ali Zafar,
Directed by: Shaad Ali
Duration: 2 hrs 7 mins
Rating: * *

The success of Gunday seems to have prompted Yashraj films to go full throttle on films that are reminiscent of the flicks made in the 70’s and 80’s. Directed by Shaad Ali (Saathiya, Bunty aur Babli, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom), not only the screenplay but the direction also looks like it belongs to the Mohenjo Daro and Harappa era.

The plot is similar to Gunday and there can’t any other reason apart from box office considerations that the production house went ahead with this film. 
Told in flashback, the story is about two young men Dev (Ranveer Singh) and Tutu (Ali Zafar) who are sharp shooters. The latter also puts a bullet in a politician’s brain from a moving train, at a railway crossing.

Both the blokes are orphans rescued by a gangster Bhaiyyaji (Govinda) and they always do as he says and mostly it is about extortion or pumping bullets. All is well till they meet Disha (Parineeti Chopra) a hip girl who becomes friendly with the two guys. For Dev though, it is more than just friendship and he falls head over high heels in love with her.

Bhaiyyaji doesn’t like it, Tutu doesn’t like it and you don’t like it either. When Dev spends Diwali with his girl Bhaiyyaji gets very annoyed- so annoyed that he sings a song. Actually, they all sing songs at some point when just about anything happens. Besides, it is rather odd to see gangsters singing songs and dancing and then getting all serious in the very next scene. As Guns and Roses said, “My way your way anything goes…” 

Love makes the world go round and it also makes shooters give up their profession and be become decent hardworking men. Post interval the plot gets more contrived than before and heads for a finale that is all too convenient. The only convenient factor for the audience is the running length of the film which just over two hours.   

Initially the film opens on a decent note but very quickly goes downhill and never recovers. The plot has neither any logic nor sense or conviction. Even though Govinda tries his vintage act, the character of Bhaiyyaji is the weakest of them all. Not that the others are any better.

The background score is reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Have a Cigar. Of the cast, Ranveer Singh adds some zing with his enthusiastic act. But these gangster sagas are so passé, time to let them rest in peace.

Published in The Navhind Times on 16th Nov 2014 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Film Review - Interstellar

2014: A Space Odyssey

Film: Interstellar
Cast: Mathew McConaughey, Anen Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Duration:  2 hr 49 mins
Rating: * * * * 1 /2

Few directors make exciting films in Hollywood like Christopher Nolan does. Right from his debut, the low budget Following (1998) to the Batman blockbusters and mind benders like Inception Nolan’s films have been a cut above the rest. He has always been pushing the boundaries and with Interstellar, he has pushed it even further.

This film is likely to down in history as one of the best science fiction films ever made along with the likes of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is hard to ignore the influence of that Kubrick classic in terms of scale and opulence.
Moreover, Interstellar is not a science fiction fantasy, it is science fiction and as good as it gets on the silver screen. Some might complain that there is a too much of it to comprehend but then we’d rather have it that way than have a diluted film. 

The film opens in an unspecified time in the future- it could be half a century later or more, we don’t know. We know that all is not well and the whole of earth is in turmoil. Famine has struck, there are blights on crops, food has become scarce and what are mostly left are corn fields. A former NASA astronaut Cooper (Mathew McConaughey) has also taken up to farming because NASA has been shut down. He lives with his teenage son Tom, daughter (Murphy) and father in law (John Lithgow).  In what appeared to be a nod to Hitchcock, he even chases a low flying drone (Indian made) through the corn fields.

After a chain of interesting events he discovers that NASA is still alive and kicking albeit they are functioning secretly. Prof. Brand (Michael Caine) Cooper’s ex-colleague is in-charge and since mankind is on the verge of extinction they have a couple of plans. Plan A is to pack up as many humans as possible and send them to a colony in space and if that fails, the option is to use frozen embryos to start afresh on another planet or maybe galaxy. 

Copper embarks on a journey along with Prof. Brands daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) and couple of other colleagues and a smart Alec robot called TARS. The journey is long and arduous; they have to go to a worm hole near Saturn which will take them to the ‘other side’. About a decade ago, other astronauts were sent in search of inhabitable places but their fate is unknown. 

It is not only about the science and the expedition. There are a lot of personal equations involved. Cooper may or may not come back to earth but he has a choice of either staying back with his kids or make an attempt to save mankind. His daughter Murphy (Jessica Chastain) always holds a grouse against him for making the latter choice.  At an early stage, the plot involves the concept of ‘ghosts’ which is very cleverly resolved at the end. 

There are some fascinating science concepts involved as well – The Tesseract is far more complex than the plain vanilla we have seen in the Avengers. The Bootstrap paradox (named after Robert Heinlein’s short story) also is ingeniously used and in the gripping finale even after paying undivided attention, it is likely that everything may not be clear. 

While Nolan’s attention to the details and visuals is incredible the music by Hans Zimmer adds its own dimension to the overall experience. Zimmer has not used much of string instruments yet it a grand feel to it. 

Of the cast, the supporting cast of Michael Caineis reliable as always. He also gets to deliver one of the most memorable lines in the film –“I am an old Physicist, I am not afraid of death, I am afraid of time.” Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway are rock solid. Mathew McConaughey’s seems to be on a roll these days. First he won the Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club and this performance is most likely to give him at least a nomination this time. 

Interstellar is a one of its kind experience at the cinema theatres. And on a side note, remember what Dylan Thomas said about not going gently into the good night. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 9th Nov 2014

Film Review- Nightcrawler

Breaking News
Film: Nightcrawler
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Renee Russo , Riz Ahmed
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Duration: 1 hr 57 mins
Rating: * * * *

Directed by writer turned director Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is the kind of film that you are not quite where it is heading. It is an engaging ride throughout but when the end credits start rolling, you leave your seat rather reluctantly because it gives so much food for thought.  

A reflection of the present times when television and their ‘breaking news’ have become a part and parcel of our lives Nightcrawler is an excellent study about a man who wants to deliver at all costs. What I particularly liked about the screenplay is the fact that it is as much of a character study of the man in question as it is a commentary on today’s world.  

Fortunately, in India crime stories on television have not taken the kind of centre stage as it seems to have in America. Of course, we have our own brand of sensationalism. 

You can’t call Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal, remarkable performance) a good for nothing. He is an unemployed bloke and a thief for whom the means are more important than the method.  He sees a roadside accident one day and a free lance camera man (Bill Paxton) is filming it. It turns out that camera guy will sell the footage to anyone who pays him the green bucks.

Interested by the idea, Louis buys a camera and a police radio scanner in order to get to the scene of the crime and film it first. He gets lucky and manages to sell some footage to a local tv station headed by Nina (Renee Russo). Louis doesn’t care two hoots about morality or ethics when it comes to shooting footage. He hires a rookie (Riz Ahmed) who doesn’t have much of an idea about what Louis is upto. In one case, they get to the crime scene even before the police does and film a family that has just been shot. 

For the news channel, as far as such footage is concerned, the more the merrier.  And the gorier, the better -for them it is all about ratings and getting the news first and manipulating the viewers’ feelings.

The films starts off with a slightly slack pace but boy, it does end with a bang.
The character of Louis is most fascinating. You could so easily argue for and against his behavior –he seems to be a fair man (“Just give me a number” he says when he tells his assistant about a raise) but he also has his failings, he doesn’t know where to draw or line or rather for him, there is no such thing as a line when it comes to his work.

Jake Gyllenhaal has given a performance of a lifetime, credit should also go to the director for extracting such a performance.  The actor has shown his versatility with films like Prisoners where he played a detective and in this as a rather creepy guy.

Nightcrawler is certainly one of those films that will be remembered for a long time.

Published in The Navhind Times on 9th Nov 2014