Browsing All Posts filed under »Film Festivals«

Don Palathara’s fascinating Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam, with Rima Kallingal and Jitin Puthanchery, is both familiar and new

February 13, 2021

0 This time, we have a “plot”, and characters who talk a lot. But the aesthetic is as rigorous as in the director’s earlier work. The camera, for instance, is “locked in” throughout Spoilers ahead… When speaking of a filmmaker as distinctive as Don Palathara, the latest work becomes a part of a continuum — […]

Uberto Pasolini’s ‘Nowhere Special’ is having its Indian premiere at the International Film Festival of Kerala

February 13, 2021

1 This tale of a dying father trying to get his little boy adopted is moving without being melodramatic. Spoilers ahead… At some level, John (James Norton) is the bestest dad ever. That’s what his four-year-old, Michael (Daniel Lamont), might say. John combs Michael’s hair for lice. John reads Michael a bedtime story, very patiently, […]

Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Churuli makes us walk the tightrope between mind-blown and mind-fucked

February 12, 2021

4 Usually films come full-circle. But here, it’s like a hypnotist’s wheel. From the centre-point of the inciting incident, the narrative (and your head) spins further and further away into an unending whirlpool. Spoilers ahead… The one thing you can say for sure about Lijo Jose Pellissery: he doesn’t do ordinary. The closest he came […]

Senna Hegde’s winning Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam, with Manoj KU and Ajisha Prabhakaran

February 11, 2021

0 This beautifully written and acted film exists in a zone between a broad Priyadarshan entertainer and the nuanced New Age Malayalam dramedy. Spoilers ahead… Based on the two films I’ve seen, the broad beats of Senna Hegde’s cinema are quite… broad. The director’s second film, Katheyondu Shuruvagide (in Kannada) was about a US-returned yuppie […]

Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu is out of the Oscar race, but it was always a long shot

February 10, 2021

18 The only way to hope for a shot at the Academy Awards is to make India matter in the eyes of Uncle Oscar as a “country that makes good movies”. As always, there was this dim hope that we’d make it to the shortlist, at least. After all, we’d picked a really deserving film, […]

Indranil Roychowdhury’s moving, minimalistic Mayar Jonjal (Debris of Desire), with Ritwick Chakraborty, Aupee Karim, Chandrayee Ghosh, Sohel Mondol

February 9, 2021

1 In this drama playing at the International Film Festival of Kerala, the women aren’t afraid of hard work. The men, on the other hand, are losers. Spoilers ahead… Indranil Roychowdhury’s Mayar Jonjal (the international title is Debris of Desire) opens with the sight of a powerful man called Joga da (Joydeep Mukherjee). So powerful […]

Rotterdam 2021: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet, A Corsican Summer, and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Suzanne Andler

February 6, 2021

0 Charlotte Gainsbourg captures both the “First World Problem”-ness of her situation as well as the genuine quandary a married woman finds herself in. Spoilers ahead… In her acclaimed novel, Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf described a single day in the life of her titular protagonist. In his new movie, Suzanna Andler, Benoît Jacquot describes a […]

Rotterdam 2021: ‘Dear Comrades!’, Andrei Konchalovsky’s record of the Novocherkassk massacre

February 6, 2021

0 The movie is based on a true story that happened on June 2nd, 1962, and kept secret until the Nineties. Culprits have never been convicted. Spoilers ahead… Andrei Konchalovsky has had one of the odder careers in world cinema. He began by writing a couple of Tarkovsky classics (Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev) in the […]

Rotterdam 2021: PS Vinothraj makes a stunning debut with Koozhangal (Pebbles), a father-son ‘road movie’

February 4, 2021

14 Despite the many tragedies in the scenario (both natural and man-made), the film doesn’t beg for our sympathies. Only at the very end do we feel a twinge. Spoilers ahead… Almost a year ago, director Ram called me to watch a movie by a new filmmaker. I went without expecting much, but what I […]

Rotterdam 2021: Talking automobiles in King Car, spreading HIV in Feast

February 4, 2021

0 Our ancestors tried to amplify the body’s ability by using a rock to split open a seed. The “tool”, therefore, was not just a rock – it was an extension of the body. Spoilers ahead… The Rotterdam Film Festival has a reputation for programming fascinating oddball fare, and Renata Pinheiro’s King Car (Portuguese) is […]

Rotterdam 2021: Reimagining Joseph Conrad in Lone Wolf, exploring motherhood in Aurora

February 3, 2021

0 The fact that almost all the primary characters are seen through video footage becomes a distancing device, which is probably intentional. But it also makes it hard to invest in the stakes. Spoilers ahead… Jonathan Ogilvie’s Lone Wolf is based on The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. The outline is the same. The characters […]

Rotterdam 2021: Riders of Justice, with Mads Mikkelsen, is a philosophical revenge thriller

February 2, 2021

4 And yes, digital versions of film festivals are another reminder that all the ‘convenience’ in the world can’t make up for the theatrical experience. Spoilers ahead… Earlier this week, I was in conversation with Indranil Roychowdhury, who is doing the festival rounds with his Indo-Bangladeshi co-production, Mayar Jonjal (Debris of Desire). The film – […]

Alisha Tejpal’s Lata, at Sundance: “I want you to ask questions. I’m not interested in passive cinema”

January 30, 2021

1 The 22-minute short, which is in Competition, focuses on a domestic labourer in an upper-class home in Mumbai. Alisha Tejpal says, “My biggest question in Indian cinema across the decades, at least for me growing up in Mumbai, is the way domestic labour has been framed. How do I write a film about a domestic […]

Dea Kulumbegashvili’s Beginning, on mubi, studies a suffering woman with a static camera

January 29, 2021

2 When we talk of single-take shots, we think back to “how did they do that?” marvels like Martin Scorsese’s nightclub-entry shot in Good Fellas. It’s different here. Spoilers ahead… Some films, like Blue is the Warmest Colour or The Brown Bunny, become notorious for sex scenes. Some films, like Irréversible, becoming controversial talking points […]

Sophia Loren transformed from glam star to great actor in Vittorio De Sica’s ‘Two Women’

November 15, 2020

2 You could say the reason glamorous stars de-glam themselves is because, otherwise, nobody takes them seriously. It’s only when Sophia Loren plays a working mother that we sit up and say, “Oh wow, what a performance!” It’s Rome. It’s World War II. The film is Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women. Cesira (Sophia Loren) runs […]

Fernanda Valadez’s ‘Identifying Features’, playing at Dharamsala, is a poignant drama about would-be illegal migrants

November 7, 2020

0 This is neither about the issue (would-be illegal immigrants) nor the mystery (what happened to the protagonist’s son who tried to cross over from Mexico to the US?). It’s more about a mother… When you think of illegal (would-be) immigrants crossing over, you think of barbed-wire fences, helicopters throwing spotlights on the ground, difficult […]

Jan Komasa’s ‘Corpus Christi’, playing at Dharamsala, makes you think about faith and prayer, sinners and saints

October 31, 2020

0 There is no point in praying mechanically. There is no point in attending church just to get it done with. You don’t even have to be in church to be with God. If you want to step out and play football, God will follow you. In Christian terms, Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is a sinner. […]

Isamu Hirabayashi’s ‘Shell and Joint’, playing at Dharamsala, is a fascinatingly eccentric dissertation on life, death, shit, sex…

October 24, 2020

3 What is the shape or condition of life? And conversely, of death? Maybe death is the more natural and common condition, while life is a short trip that ends with death. What if suicide doesn’t arise from the desire to not live anymore? What if the impulse to kill oneself isn’t something existential, but […]

Don Palathara’s ‘Shavam’, ‘Vith’ and ‘1956, Central Travancore’ are observational tracts filled with gorgeous “human landscapes”

October 13, 2020

6 ‘1956, Central Travancore’ (2019) premiered on October 5, at the Moscow International Film Festival. It is about the power of stories and storytelling The Malayalam director Don Palathara has made three films: Shavam (2015), Vith (2017), and 1956, Central Travancore (2019), which premiered on October 5, at the Moscow International Film Festival. All these […]

Venice Film Festival 2020 Ameen Nayfeh’s ‘200 Meters’ is a potent dramatisation of what the Wall does to Israelis and Palestinians

September 12, 2020


The Palestinian protagonist won’t get himself an Israeli ID. It’s like how some NRIs won’t get themselves an American passport because they still want to feel “Indian”. It seems like a very ordinary scene out of the very ordinary life of a very ordinary family. Mustafa (Ali Suliman) is fooling around with his wife, Salwa […]