Over 175 movies from as many as 70 countries over the span of seven days. That's the expanse of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Festival. And that's the expanse I dived into.
It all came to a close last night at Bandra's Rang Mandir auditorium where the awards were handed out. I reluctantly closed my BookMyShow booking tab, turned off Twitter notifications for the MAMI handle and took stock of all the movies I had watched. And I wasn't disappointed.
Before I get into a final wrap up of the festival though, here's what went down on Day 7.
Day 7 for me meant not having to get up at 8 AM to book, and by the virtue of having watched an average of at least four movies a day, I realised I could be lazy.
My laziness meant missing the first bit of a four-hour long movie. I reached the venue forty-five minutes late, sat in for Lav Diaz's The Woman Who Left and skipped the last half-hour or so. Just so that I could book my place for the closing night movie Manchester by the Sea.
Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan's film is his third directorial venture and most would say his best. He's definitely a director to watch out for, but for me, his previous work in Margaret was a little bit stronger.
After being let in from the standby line, I scrambled to find a seat. Only finding one in the second row, I dashed to the top to give it a shot, and luckily found one of the last remaining seats. The movie, at a little over two hours, is about an uncle (played by Casey Affleck) having to take care of his nephew (a 16-year-old boy played by Lucas Hedges) in Manchester after the boy's father passes away.
This is a movie that drains you of your emotions with wonderful performances from both the main actors - Affleck wonderfully develops his 'alienated handyman' character through the movie - elevates the movie from a mundane to-the-plot story to something that'll surprise the viewer.
Taking cues from a familiar storyline, Manchester by the Sea ticks off all the right boxes. It may be a slow-burning drama but it has depth, complexity and even some humour to give it shape.
Within the last half hour though, I noticed about forty to fifty people walking out. As I later got to know, even in the front rows there were walkouts. This all sounded very strange to me, as I was watching a good flick and the line to get in was huge.
Some went to see Jodoworsky's Endless Poetry, and others I don't know. It's come down to the MAMI scheduling once again, with the overlapping movies. I guess this picture wasn't a strong enough choice to have a 'closing film' tag. Also, the 'closing film' was at three in the afternoon. Before a lot of other movies later in the day!
After walking out of the movie, a couple of people and I decided to go grab some food and drinks before Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman (Forushande). As we were already pre-booked, we didn't need to be in standby. This, I thought, was a good movie to end the fest with.
Brilliantly directed (that's no surprise) and very well acted (again, no surprise), Farhadi kept the viewer attuned to the screen for the entire duration of the movie. Known for directing his actors down to the exact expression he wants, Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti and Babak Karimi perform to their utmost best in this film.
It's a simple story of a couple's relationship going south. The title comes from the couple's performance of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. It's a domestic drama that comes alive on the big screen. It's an exploration of the dark side of the soul.
Farhadi uses the traumatic experience of an assault on the wife to trigger the husband's hunger for revenge. This movie, by far, is not his best, as some long drawn-out scenes tend to bore the viewer. With a climax that delivers all the correct punches, those middling scenes are forgotten in a flash.
After Farhadi's film my friends and I spent some time deliberating if we should try and squeeze in a last film and decided on beers instead.
Over beers we came to the conclusion that the jury saw an entirely different selection of films than the audience. The only thing I was annoyed at was having missed out on two of the Indian films that were on my pre-MAMI watch list - The Narrow Path and Lady of the Lake.
Nonetheless, here are the award winners along with the names of the film directors.
Golden Gateway Award: The Lady of the Lake (Haobam Paban Kumar)
Silver Gateway Award: The Narrow Path (Ottayaal Paath) (Satish Babusenan and Santosh Babusenan)
Jury Grand Prize: The Hidden Corner (Aicheng Jai Dohutia)
Special Mention: Autohead (Deepak Sampath)
Special Mention: Cinema Travellers (Shirley Abraham and Amit Madhesiya)
Golden Gateway Award: Diamond Island (David Chou)
Silver Gateway Award: Godless (Ralitza Petrova)
The Jury Grand Prize: Everything Else (Natalia Almada)
Special Mention for Political Commitment of the Film: When Two Worlds Collide (Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel)
The Special Mention: Alba (Macarena Arias)
Golden Gateway Award: Mumbai's Mahuwa (Santosh Ganpat Kamble)
Silver Gateway Award: Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh (Tabu Kaariya)
Special Mention (Dimensions Mumbai) Award: Bombai (Yashwardhan Goswami)
Golden Gateway Award (Feature): Hang in There, Kids! (Laha Mebow)
The Silver Gateway Award (Feature): At Eye Level (Evi Goldbrunner and Joachim Dollhopf)
Special mention (Feature): Colours of Innocence (Mrinmoy Mondal and Shupratim Bhol)
The Golden Gateway Award (Short): A Town Called Panic: Back to School. (Vincent Patar and Stephane Aubier)
The Silver Gateway Award (Short): We Make Images (Nina Sabnani)
Special Mention (Short): The Best Sound in the World (Pedro Paulo De Andrade)
Special Mention for Excellence in Writing on Cinema (Hindi): Naye Daur Ka Naya Cinema (Priyadarshan)
Special Mention for Excellence in Writing on Cinema (English): Kanan Devi: The First Superstar of Indian Cinema (Mekhala Sengupta)
Excellence in Writing on Cinema Award (Hindi): Bhartiye Cinema Ka Itihas (Anil Bhargava)
Excellence in writing on Cinema Award (English): The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Jai Arun Singh)
Oxfam Award for Best Film on Gender Equality: Lipstick Under my Burkha (Alankrita Shrivastava)
Mastercard Best India Female Filmmaker 2016 Award: A Death in the Gunj (Konkona Sensharma)
Audience Choice Award: The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
Young Critics Choice Award: Cinema Travellers (Shirley Abraham and Amit Madhesiya)