Sunday, February 12, 2017

Film Festival Diary - BIFFES 9th Edition - 2017


THE BUSINESS OF WATCHING MOVIES 2016

The recent BIFFES film festival showcased movies of the year 2016, from around the world. It was an eclectic collection from the 2016 film festival circuits. BIFFES-9 happened at PVR Orion Mall, Bengaluru from Feb 3 to Feb 9.  Over the 7 days, I was able to watch 22 movies! Very much back in the saddle of The Business of Watching Movies (TBOWM), at long last, after a hiatus of 6 years.

The organizers did a great job managing the screenings and the huge crowds. The volunteers kept the information flowing. There were timely updates about the minor snafus that are to be expected in an event of this magnitude.

The venue was great, with 11 screens, good seating and other facilities. PVR also provided a special festival-priced menu organized by was also a good move. Only suggestions for improvement are that a) they could avoid the long queues and subsequent mob-like behavior, by allowing immediate entry into the auditoriums and b) utilize the poster displays to also show timings.

All in all, it was a great experience and time well-spent.

PERSONAL

I was mostly focusing on watching the movies, catching up after a long time.
  1. DUET -  Iran 9/10 - Portrait of problems faced by their current spouses when two exes with unresolved issues meet. Silent ambiguities.
  2. A MAN CALLED OVE - Sweden 9/10 - Heartwarming tale of a grumpy old man who finds new friends and purpose in life, despite his peeves!
  3. VERY BIG SHOT -  Lebanon 9/10 - Slick comedy. Pizza guys shoot movie to smuggle drugs in film canisters. Lovable characters.
  4. THE POLAR BOY - Estonia 8.5/10 - Boy needs to fake bipolar disorder to get out of trouble caused by bipolar girlfriend. Funnymotionalsadjoy
  5. THE TEACHER - Slovakia 8.5/10 - who exploits students to get her chores done. Comedy done in a delightful 12 Angry Men style narrative.
  6. LIKE CRAZY - Italy 8.5/10 - Comedy drama about the escapades and discoveries of two inmates who escape from an institution -
  7. A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH - Denmark 8.5/10 - Tightly executed, fast-paced thriller about a kidnapping serial killer. Faith ruminations weaved
  8. GUILTY MEN - Colombia 8/10 - Rustic crime drama. Theft, treachery and murder! And a love triangle. Delightful watch.
  9. FLEMISH HEAVEN - Belgium 8/10 - Drama piece about a brothel owner's daughter getting abused and justice. Thought-provoking.
  10. RAUF -Turkey 8/10 - Boyhood tale. Shepherd boy's crush on his master's daughter,who wants a pink scarf. But pink's in short supply!
  11. PAULINA - Argentina 8/10 - Drama about woman who takes up rural work, gets raped in a case of mistaken identity and has the baby.
  12. THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER - Germany 7.5/10 - Gripping account of how Bauer got Eichmann caught by the Mossad. Facing Germany's Nazi & homophobic past seems to have been a motivation behind the movie..
  13. MINISTRY OF LOVE - Croatia 7.5/10 - Down-to-earth comedy. Budget cuts off widow pension, if they've remarried. Inspectors need proof!
  14. NERUDA - Chile 7.5/10 - Fictionalized biopic of an inspector's hunt for impeached Pablo. Would've been more fun if it was less abstract
  15. HEDI -Tunisia 7/10 - Tale of a mama's boy who tries to break free from his mother's chosen plans...At 25, and about to get married...
  16. DOGS - Romania 7/10 - Parabolic story of man who inherits vast land from gangster relative but is unable to sell.-
  17. K SERA SERA - India 7/10 - Dual tale about the futility and illusion of choices we make. A bit worn but great acting.
  18. ANNA’S LIFE - Georgia - 7/10 - Struggles of a single mother with an autistic kid to go to the USA
  19. SIERANEVADA - Romania 7/10 - Accurate, real-time view of events at a family lunch. Brilliant exploration of the quotidian. Too long.
  20. THE TOTH FAMILY- Hungary 7/10 - Comedy about a family putting up with their son's eccentric commander who long overstays his welcome. The techniques have not aged well.
  21. PRETENDERS - Estonia 6/10 - All elements for a Polanski-style behavioral thriller. Couples in an isolated place etc. But falls flat.
  22. THE CAT - India 3/10 - Cheap symbolism and lines in a B-grade movie about a lusting(?) monk...Marks only for the sincerity of melodrama! I have no clue how this made the cut.
The only interactive session I attended was one with the crew of  Ke Sera Sera, which was fun. The crew talked about how they were able to pull it off in 16 days flat and how the actor who played an old man managed the physical transformations.

Another funny episode for me happened in the queue for one of the shows. I told my neighbours in the queue for one of the shows that I was in the business of watching movies. They took me seriously and asked me whether it paid well. I hadn't known they were students in a film institute!

MOVIE REVIEW DIARY

Detailed listing of the movies I watched with a short review, in th order of recommendation follows. On the right are excerpts from the official BIFFES catalog PDF.
  • DUET -  Iran 9/10
Portrait of problems faced by their current spouses when two exes with unresolved issues meet. Silent ambiguities.
Duet, Director - Navid Danesh, Iran / 2016 / Persian / 103 min.
Synopsis:Minoo drives her husband Hamed to see his ex-girlfriend Sepideh as
he wants to apologize to her for their unpleasant breakup some years
ago. The reunion, however, revives old memories that set in motion a
sequence of events that affect Sepideh’s life.
  • A MAN CALLED OVE - Sweden 9/10
Heartwarming tale of a grumpy old man who finds new friends and purpose in life, despite his peeves!
En Man Som Heter Ove, Director - Hannes Holm
Sweden / 2015 / Swedish | Persian / 116 min.
Synopsis: 59 year old Ove is the block’s grumpy man who several years earlier was
deposed as president of the condominium association, but he could not
give a damn about being deposed and therefore keeps looking over the
neighborhood with an iron fist. When pregnant Parvaneh and her family
moves into the terraced house opposite and accidentally backs into Ove’s
mailbox it turns out to be an unexpected friendship. A drama comedy
about unexpected friendship, love and the importance of surrounding
yourself with the proper tools.
  • VERY BIG SHOT -  Lebanon 9/10
Slick comedy. Pizza guys shoot movie to smuggle drugs in film canisters. Lovable characters.

Film Kteer Kbeer, Director - Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya,Lebanon / 2015 / Lebanese|Arabic / 107 min.
Synopsis: Three brothers find themselves in the middle of a struggle with an armed
man. One of the brothers, Ziad, shoots the man dead. His brother Jad,
however, takes the fall and is sent to jail. In the intervening years, Ziad
has turned their modest family bakery into a drug dealing hub for a local
gangster. With Jad’s imminent release, however, he wants to go legit,
much to the charging of his boss, who asks him to do one last drop-off
as a personal favor. When that-drop off is across the border in war-torn
Syria, anything can happen.
  • THE POLAR BOY - Estonia 8.5/10
Boy needs to fake bipolar disorder to get out of trouble caused by bipolar girlfriend. Funnymotionalsadjoy

Polaarpoiss, Director - Anu Aun,Estonia / 2016 / Estonian | English/ 97 min.
Synopsis:,Mattias is a young talented photographer in his final year of secondary
school, who has a dream to become a student of the Berlin Arts Academy.
He unexpectedly falls in love with Hanna, who is adventurous and
unpredictable but appears to suffer from bipolar disorder. Mattias risks
his whole future by breaking the law together with Hanna, but ends up
destroying the girl he loves as he commits a crime that could end up
putting him behind bars. His only solution to avoid jail is to fake the
illness his girlfriend already has - bipolarity.
  • THE TEACHER - Slovakia 8.5/10
who exploits students to get her chores done. Comedy done in a delightful 12 Angry Men style narrative.

Ucitelka, Director - Jan Hrebejk,Slovakia / 2016 / Slovak / 102 min.
Synopsis:Since the arrival of the new teacher, Maria Drazdechova 1983, life has
turned upside down for students and parents. The teacher’s corrupted
behavior and one of the students’ suicide attempt that could be related
to that matter, makes the school Principal call the parents for an urgent
meeting that will suddenly put the future of all the families at stake. They
are asked to sign a petition against Maria. Maria’s connections in the
Communist Party makes everyone feel threatened. Will they dare to go
against her and stand up or will they just remain silent and let things be?
  • LIKE CRAZY - Italy 8.5/10
Comedy drama about the escapades and discoveries of two inmates who escape from an institution -

La Pazza Gioia, Director - Paolo VirzimItaly | France / 2016 / Italian / 118 min.
Synopsis: Beatrice is a motor-mouthed fantasist, a self-styled billionaire countess
who likes to believe she’s on intimate terms with world leaders. Donatella
is a tattooed introvert, a fragile young woman locked in her own mystery.
They are both patients at the Villa Biondi, a progressive but secure
psychiatric clinic. The film tells the story of the unpredictable and moving
friendship that develops between the two women as they flee the mental
institution in search of love and happiness in the open-air nuthouse - the
world of sane people.
  • A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH - Denmark 8.5/10
Tightly executed, fast-paced thriller about a kidnapping serial killer. Faith ruminations weaved

Flaskepost Fra P, Director - Hans Petter Moland,Denmark / 2016 / Danish / 112 min.
Synopsis: An old note is found in a bottle in Jutland which has travelled across the
ocean for a long time. The note is hard to decipher but when the Danish
investigators from Section Q receive it, the odd personalities within
the section find a new angle on it and try to unveil yet another old and
diabolic case even though the lead is cold to catch an elusive serial killer,
while time is running out.
  • GUILTY MEN - Colombia 8/10
Rustic crime drama. Theft, treachery and murder! And a love triangle. Delightful watch.

Pariente, Director - Ivan D Gaona,Columbia / 2016 / Spanish / 115 min.
Synopsis:While the demobilization process of an illegal armed group is taking
place in rural Colombia, a town leader plays a risky game with the local
paramilitaries with a cache of cash at stake. When Willington’s only love,
Mariana, is about to get married with his cousin Rene, they get caught in
a situation that rapidly slips out of control.
  • FLEMISH HEAVEN - Belgium 8/10
Drama piece about a brothel owner's daughter getting abused and justice. Thought-provoking.

Le Ciel Flamand, Director - Peter Monsaert,Belgium / 2016 / Flemish / 112 min.
Synopsis:A look at the lives of three generations of women. Monique and her
daughter Sylvie run a brothel on the border of West Flanders and France.
Eline, Sylvie’s six-year-old daughter, is fascinated by the mysterious
workplace of her mother and grandmother, but she is never allowed
inside. A dramatic event turns their lives upside down and the family ties
are put under pressure.
  • RAUF -Turkey 8/10

Boyhood tale. Shepherd boy's crush on his master's daughter,who wants a pink scarf. But pink's in short supply!

Rauf, Director - Soner Caner And Baris Kaya, Turkey / 2016 / Turkish | Kurdish / 93 min.
Synopsis: Rauf is the story of a nine year old, living in a village under the shadow
of invisible endless war, who embarks on a journey to find the color pink
for the girl he loves who is a twenty year old daughter of the carpenter
to whom he is an apprentice. For him, pink is the color of the love in his
dreams and peace he never saw. The quest for pink starts with his desire
to make her smile. But his experiences in the grey world teach him the
black and white.
  • PAULINA - Argentina 8/10
Drama about woman who takes up rural work, gets raped in a case of mistaken identity and has the baby.

La Patota, Director - Santiago Mitre, Argentina / 2015 / Spanish / 103 min.
Synopsis: Paulina abandons her successful career as a lawyer in Buenos Aires
to engage in social activism back in her homeland on the border
between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. After two weeks working in a
neighborhood scarred by poverty and marginalization, she is assaulted
by a gang. Despite the brutality of the attack, instead of fleeing, Paulina
resolves to hold tighter to her convictions - to survive, against the odds.

  • THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER - Germany 7.5/10
Gripping account of how Bauer got Eichmann caught by the Mossad. Facing Germany's Nazi  and homophobic past seems to have been a motivation behind the movie..

Der Staat Gegen Fritz Bauer, Director - Lars Kraume,Germany / 2015 / German / 105 min.
Synopsis: Germany, 1957. Attorney General Fritz Bauer receives crucial evidence on the
whereabouts of SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. The lieutenant
colonel, responsible for the mass deportation of the Jews, is allegedly hiding
in Buenos Aires. Bauer, himself Jewish, has been trying to take crimes from
the Third Reich to court ever since his return from Danish exile. Because
of his distrust in the German justice system, Fritz Bauer contacts the Israeli
secret service Mossad, and, by doing so, commits treason. Bauer is not
seeking revenge for the Holocaust--he is concerned with the German future.
  • MINISTRY OF LOVE - Croatia 7.5/10
Down-to-earth comedy. Budget cuts off widow pension, if they've remarried. Inspectors need proof!

Ministarstvo Ljubavi, Director - Pavo Marinkovic, Croatia / 2016 / Croatian / 103 min.
Synopsis: A razor sharp comedy all about relationships and red tape. Kreso is at a
loose end. A fully qualified biologist, disillusioned, out of work and stuck
in a marriage. Over 20 years after the 1990 war, spying on war widows in
order to cut off their pensions ,should they find new partners? But what
his bosses, including his father-in-law, don’t know is that he just may be
romance’s unlikeliest champion. Ministry Of Love is a quirky, sardonic,
blisteringly funny road trip through the idiosyncrasies of finding one’s
passion in unlikely places.
  • NERUDA - Chile 7.5/10
Fictionalized biopic of an inspector's hunt for impeached Pablo. Would've been more fun if it was less abstract

Neruda, Director - Pablo Larraín, Chile / 2016 / Spanish| French /107 min.
Synopsis:Poet and politician Pablo Neruda, who goes underground when Chile
outlaws communism and is pursued by an ambitious police inspector
hoping to make a name for himself by capturing the famous fugitive.
  • HEDI -Tunisia 7/10
Tale of a mama's boy who tries to break free from his mother's chosen plans...At 25, and about to get married...

Inhebek Hedi, Director - Mohamed Ben Attia,Tunisia / 2016 / Arabic / 88 min.
Synopsis: Hedi is the very picture of a man listlessly treading the path laid out for
him. He’s a lousy salesman with zero interest in what he’s doing. His
mother is an overbearing, strong-willed widow determined to keep him
close to her. But, a week before his marriage to Khedija, for whom he
has no interest, he meets Rim. She is a free-spirited woman who makes
him feel alive, and opens his eyes to the possibility of enjoying life, on his
own terms.
  • DOGS - Romania 7/10
Parabolic story of man who inherits vast land from gangster relative but is unable to sell.-

Caini, Director - Bogdan Mirica, Romania / 2016 / Romanian / 104 min.
Synopsis: A group of thieves assemble to pull of the perfect diamond heist.
It turns into a bloody ambush when one of the men turns out to be a
police informer. As the group begins to question each other’s guilt, the
heightening tensions threaten to explode the situation before the police
step in.
  • K SERA SERA -  India -  7/10
Dual tale about the futility and illusion of choices we make. A bit worn but great acting.

Ghodpachem Ghoddtelem, Director - Rajeev Shinde, 2016 / Konkani / 125 min.
Synopsis: K Sera Sera revolves around a concept of “Do we live life... Or does life live
us…”. The film is about two individuals. One who believes in changing
the circumstances with precise and definite decisions and the other who
believes in drifting with the situations around and let the circumstances
decide the course of life.
  • ANNA’S LIFE - Georgia - 7/10
Struggles of a single mother with an autistic kid to go to the USA

Anas Ckhovreba, Director - Nino Basilia, Georgia / 2016 / Georgian / 108 min.
Synopsis: Young single mother Anna works several jobs in order to fund the care
required for her autistic son, who is placed in a specialist establishment.
One day, she decides to leave it all behind and take him to live in the
United States. But she has difficulty in obtaining the visa. So she sells
her flat and entrusts everything she has to a man who can acquire false
papers for her. Can she really trust him?

  • SIERANEVADA - Romania 7/10
Accurate, real-time view of events at a family lunch. Brilliant exploration of the quotidian. Too long.

Sieranevada, Director - Cristi Puiu, Romania / 2016 / Romanian / 173 min.
Synopsis: A doctor and his wife are having a family meal in Bucharest to mark
the passing of his father when an argument about 9/11 breaks out and
deteriorates into a settling of personal scores.
  • THE TOTH FAMILY- Hungary 7/10
Comedy about a family putting up with their son's eccentric commander who long overstays his welcome. The techniques have not aged well.

Isten Hozta Örnagy Úr, Director - Zoltán Fábri,Hungary / 1969 /Hungarian / 95 min.
Synopsis:Nervously exhausted Major (Latinovits) is spending his leave with the
parents of a favourite subordinate. For the son’s sake, mother and
daughter generously comply with the Major’s peculiar requests. However,
the esteemed fire chief resists the Major’s aggressive ways in the name
of human dignity.
  • PRETENDERS - Estonia 6/10
All elements for a Polanski-style behavioral thriller. Couples in an isolated place etc. But falls flat.

Teesklejad, Director - Vallo Toomla, Estonia / 2016 / Estonian / 102 min.
Synopsis:
After a heavy decision, Anna and Juhan are unable to move on with their
lives. They take time off at their friends’ fancy summer house and once
there, are forced to offer shelter to another couple caught in the storm.
The couple assumes that the house belongs to Anna and Juhan and they
do nothing to correct the mistake. Instead, they seize their new roles and
start taking their mutual bitterness out on the strangers. Pretenders is
a psychological drama about the truths and illusions of a relationship.
  • THE CAT - India 3/10
Cheap symbolism and lines in a B-grade movie about a lusting(?) monk...Marks only for the sincerity of melodrama! I have no clue how this made the cut.

Bekku, Director - Baragur Ramachandrappa, 2015 / Kannada / 102 min.
Synopsis:Man’s sub-conscious mind is a den of plenty of emotions: it could be lust
for women as well. So, an emotion craving for pleasure sits at the back of
the mind. The lust, craving desire which is a dimension within, expresses
itself outside when it gets an external stimulus. This is an innate process
of human nature, if the same happens in the case of a saint, who is
supposed to have renounced the world, then the ethical and non-ethical
questions crop up. It explores the anxiety that comes out of the clash
between the inner and outer world.

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