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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

MAMI festival 2006: Movies, masti and magic

The Mumbai Academy of Moving Images festival 2006 better known as MAMI has around 100 films playing at IMAX Adlabs at Wadala and YB Chavan Auditorium in Colaba. With the festival starting on Friday. March 23, not everyone could be there on a work day. And as luck would have it, there were many good movies that opened the festival.

There was Dansh (Sting) starring Sonali Kulkarni and the crowd favourite Les Choristes (The Chorus), which was a French film directed by Christophe Barratier. Sonali Kulkarni was also there on Saturday (March 25) talking to the press about her experiences of shooting for an Italian movie, Fuoco Su Di Me (Fire At My Heart) directed by Lamberto Lambertini. She raved about Italy, the people and the food and said she was initially worried about learning Italian but she got a lot of support from her director and his team.

This movie was also shown at the festival. Other movies played on that day were Zoorek, Tapas, Forest of the Gods, Caribe among others. India was represented by Dansh, Kal (Yesterday & Tomorrow), Dhool Ka Phool, Darpan Ke Peeche, Antarmahal, The Film, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Maara, Vishwa Thulasi - a Tamil film, Achuvinte Amma - a Malayalam film and Marathi movies Maazi Ghosta and Dombivili Fast.

Actor Sandeep Kulkarni seems to be a regular at film festivals. He's in 'Dombivili Fast' and played the role of a doctor in last year's 'Shwaas'. 'Shwaas' was India's Oscar entry last year, in the foreign language category.

This year, the focus was on Spanish cinema but a package of Serbian and Palestinian films were also making their presence felt. Three global auteurs - one of them posthmously - were felicitated with a retrospective and tributes. They were Daniel Wachsmann, whose movies like Hamsin, Bar Mitzwa and Song of Galilee were shown here. And tributes were paid to Prithviraj Kapoor and Roberto Rossllini.

Also Yash Chopra got the Lifetime Achievement award, Anil Kapoor for his 25 years in showbusiness and Ashok Mehta for his cinematography were honoured.

Ofcourse, there was the MAMI centrepiece that everyone was eager to get a dekko at - Ismail Merchant's last movie 'The White Countess' was also screened at IMAX on Sunday. What is awaited and will be screened on the last day of the festival, March 30 is Deepa Mehta's 'Water'. At the YB Chavan, it is a strictly by invitation screening but the smarter people will be at IMAX Adlabs for the 9.30 pm viewing. I've immensely enjoyed watching Deepa Mehta's earlier movies 'Fire' and 'Earth' and will definitely see 'Water', which completes her elements trilogy.

But of the movies, I had been able to watch so far, 'The Ghost of Mae Nak' will stand out for the brilliant camerawork of the Mumbai-born director, Mark Duffield. He's done a great job of shooting Bangkok in all its glory and this won him the Best Cinemantography award at the 2003 Slamdunk Film Festival in the US. He's also scripted this Thai legendary ghost story in English, which was later translated into Thai. He had learnt of this legend from an earlier film called Nang Nak and his film sure had some gory scenes.

It also had all the classic Bollywood ingredients - only in Thai settings. There was the cute young couple, both well dressed and madly in love who marry (with parental consent) and then get pursued by a ghost, who wants to claim the man for herself. A romantic, horror story, which in India would be a complete family entertainer. And no sex to worry the parents and the prudes. Duffield sure does know his Indian and Asian audience.

A Hungarian film 'Dallas Among Us' was hard hitting and gritty. It showed the lives of gypsies who live in the margins of society in Romania. They go about their lives boozing, collecting rubbish from their surroundings and selling it to a goon from the city, who fleeces them out of their money everytime. Only one man has managed to escape from this dump heap and he's forced to return to bury his father. He's sees the harsh realities he's moved away from with fresh eyes and also finds true love waiting for him.

He wants to make a change in their lives but some people can't fight their destiny and he realises that, when he tragically loses his lover. The actors spent most of their time in a city's garbage dump and went without makeup. That's something you are not going to see Saif Ali Khan or Preity Zinta do in a hurry, any time soon. But the acting was outstanding nonetheless, especially Dorka Gryllus, who plays the lead's lover. She's the Romanian Salma Hayek - all brunette, smoldering sexiness.

'The Song of Galilee' was a Daniel Wachsmann documentary shot in real time with no editing. So, if he was threatened, it was on screen for the world to watch. When his car gets blown up and when he's almost shot dead - all that is also there for us to watch. He admits as much at the end of the film, that "if you are watching this, then you are helping to keep me alive."

The movie actually investigates the death of a part-time poet, philosopher and a full time nationalist, who advocates a separate Galilee. Yes, Saul Havilio wants a separate state away from Israel. He gets killed for his effort. Just before his death, he called up the director and wanted to meet him because he had heard that Daniel had wanted to make a documentary on the caves and caverns around Galilee. Shaul's death makes the director turn Sherlock Holmes. He goes in search of the people who were arrested in connection with his death and gets stonewalled and dire warnings.

But he eventually realises and almost finds proof of the fact that the legendary Temple treasure, which is a major Jewish myth, might still be hidden in Mount Merion, the highest mountain in Israel. He's able to show us the tunnels in the heart of the mountain where the treaure is hidden to this day but no one can get to it because the exit and entrance of those caverns are known only to one family for generations - the family of Shaul Havilio!

He leaves us with the tantalising thought that Shaul was shot dead because he had attempted to draw too much attention to himself and his family and when he got in touch with the director, they panicked and killed him. What's more, all the suspects are related to one another in some way and they conspire to keep their mouths shut about his death. They also are quiet about another bigger conspiracy - whether they are mounting a serious threat to Israel's sovereignity by starting a war for a free Galilee. This was investigative journalism at its best.

More on the MAMI festival: http://www.iffmumbai.org/

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

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