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MAMI Film Festival Day 1 was a mix of reality and the surreal

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

After ages, I saw four films in a single day... MAMI does that to you! Fortunately, however, years of festival watching has still not made me blase to the lure of good cinema.

Hermia and Helena

I was bewildered by Argentinian writer-director Matias Piñeiro's deliberately opaque Hermia and Helena - the film is constructed like a puzzle and intercuts time zones while alternating between New York, USA, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. There were just too many flashbacks and subplots in this riff on the Shakespearean Midsummer's Night. About the only time I snapped out of my semi-somnolent state (I had woken up early to book online for MAMI shows) is in the segment where the protagonist meets her absentee-for-30-years father. She asks him a list of questions that she has jotted down to get to know him as quickly as possible and make sense of one of the many jigsaws in her life. It's an affecting sequence with raw emotional power.


I was just in the nick of time to catch this French-Canadian story of two estranged brothers Vincent (ruggedly handsome Jean Simon Leduc) and Michael learning to bond again. Vincent has stolen drugs from the local mob and they are baying for his blood. The fraught-with-tension narrative, which encompasses a disturbingly detailed arson and suicide, relies too much on dark visuals which are shot with an infrared filter (I am relying on my photographer friend Vickky Idnaani's info) and eerie 'industrial music' that builds up to ear-deafening crescendo. Shambles rambles too much and if I sat through till the end it was thanks to some arresting visuals and my friend Jeetu who slipped out midway through the screening and got hot cups of tea!

Mostly Sunny

On a whim, I decided to see Mostly Sunny, a documentary on Sunny Leone by Dilip Mehta, and it turned out to be "not bad." The film tilts favourably towards Leone (though it wasn't funded by her and she stayed away from the screening too), barring a scathing dressing down by retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi. The plusses are Sunny Leone's candid interviews and her disarming vulnerability which is evident when she speaks about the guilt she experienced after her mother's death. A trip to Sunny's modest home in the snowy Sarnia, Canada, is one of the few insightful segments. The brother whose name she appropriated (her birth name is Karanjit Kaur Vohra) for her adult films is revealed to be supportive - the actress confides that she has become an adult-film star to him before she breaks the news to her unsuspecting parents.

The Lure

The PICK OF THE DAY for me was the film 'Lure' by Polish filmmaker, Agnieszka Smoczynska (I am not even going to try and pronounce his name) which I chose over Arfi Lamba's Loev because I had already seen and appreciated that eye-opening love story between two men. I had pulled a muscle last week and my back was hurting after three screenings despite the concealed waistband I was wearing. But Vickky dragged me to Lure and our common friend Sapna joined us with a hurriedly purchased delegate pass. Lure was a fascinating musical fable about two mermaid sisters, Golden and Silver, who 'land' up in a nightclub sometime in the '80s. Once they assume human form (they shed their tails for legs), they become overnight draws with their silken voices much to the delight of the singing family that owns the nightclub. Complications arise when one of the sisters is unable to suppress her natural instinct to make meals out of human beings while the other sister falls prey to her human instincts and finds herself head-over-heels (tails?) in love with the golden-haired bass player, Mietek. You get the premonition of a tragic denouement when Mietek callously states to Silver, "You'll always be a fish to me."

The spirited choreography dazzles and the realistic special effects are wince worthy especially the surgery in which the mermaids are sliced and stitched up.

Fishy puns and lines like 'Sweating like a midwife' in the lyrics (wonder if it's a faithful translation of the Polish original) abound, and often, provide the black humour. One visual from the film that will stay with me for a long time: The sisters turning back to mermaids while they are basking nude in a giant-sized champagne glass as part of their song-and-dance act. It encapsulates the seamless crossovers between reality and fantasy that the film achieves so deftly.

When I drove home in my Uber, for once, I didn't chat up the taxi driver. Instead, I silently gobbled a Frankie packed from the Food Court and chose to ruminate over the films, a blend of the surreal and starkly real.

--Dinesh Raheja (Editor - Bollywood News Service)

First published: 23 October 2016, 10:27 IST