The Quint’s Guide to MAMI 2019: 15 Films to Watch Out For
From ‘The Irishman’ to ‘Ad Astra’ and beyond.
It’s that time of the year again. The 2019 edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival kicks off on Friday 18 October and film lovers across the city are looking forward to a full week packed with movies and magic. The festival screens the best of the best of acclaimed films from around the world along with some of the most exciting new titles in Indian independent cinema.
With over 220 films in the line-up, the fest can get really tough to navigate. Well, that’s what we’re here for. We bring you of the 15 of the most anticipated, must-watch films along with some hidden gems. But first...
We don’t want to crowd this list with the obvious choices, so let’s get the big hitters out of the way. You definitely want to watch Martin Scorsese return to the gangster epic with The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Underrated auteur James Gray makes a huge leap with the existential space adventure Ad Astra starring Brad Pitt. Opening film Moothon, produced by Anurag Kashyap, is a must for fans of gritty crime dramas.
Then there are new films by Hirokazu Kore-eda (The Truth), Olivier Assayas (Wasp Network), Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), François Ozon (By the Grace of God) and Gitanjali Rao’s animated musical Bombay Rose.
Whew! Now that that’s out of the way, here are our very carefully selected recommendations.
Varda by Agnès
Ever the progressive icon, Agnès Varda, mother of the French New Wave, ended up providing the perfect tribute to her own career with her latest hybrid documentary which premiered barely a month before she passed away. Making her film debut in 1954 and disrupting the medium even at 90, Varda’s last work is not to be missed.
The Witch director Robert Eggers returns with a horror film that looks to be even more unnerving and darkly comic than his debut. The Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe-starrer deals with a pair of lonely lighthouse keepers who may be losing their mind. Or is it something more sinister?
P.S. The Lighthouse is shot on old black and white 35 mm stock (!)
Assamese filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika’s sophomore effort has been gaining hype ever since its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April due to a darkly intriguing premise that isn’t afraid to push boundaries. Without spoiling much, Aamis explores themes of forbidden love and the curious relationship between food and sex. Yeah, we’re salivating.
This year’s Golden Bear winner at the Berlin International Film Festival, Synonyms is an irreverent and manic take on nationhood, identity and self-discovery. The film comes from Israeli director Nadav Lapid, who has made a name with intelligent yet twisty dramas such as The Policeman and The Kindergarten Teacher.
Portuguese master Pedro Costa continues his decades-spanning look at the impoverished neighbourhood of Fontainhas in Lisbon, this time turning his lens on the titular Vitalina, an immigrant retracing her dead husband’s life. Costa recreates real stories with the real people who lived them and combines documentary precision with painterly images.
MAMI’s Restored Classics section is especially strong this year, with major titles like David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and a 4K restoration of Alien. What we’re jumping at, however, is the once in a lifetime opportunity to catch Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr’s seven-hour masterpiece of slow cinema, often cited as one of the best films of all time.
Eeb Allay Ooo
“A young migrant battles hordes of monkeys in the heart of New Delhi as a contractual monkey repeller.” If that premise doesn’t sell you on this buzzy film, know that director Prateek Vats has made his bones with award-winning documentaries and working with the Ektara Collective. His feature debut promises a subversive take on topical issues.
Brazilian film critic-turned-filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho is one of the most exciting emerging voices on the international scene with films like 2012’s Neighboring Sounds and 2016’s Aquarius. His latest is an against-type weird Western starring none other than Udo Kier, which still maintains his keen eye for social commentary.
P.S. Kleber has described Bacurau as “basically Lagaan” (!)
Bertrand Bonello is one of the most underrated French filmmakers working today, a striking stylist who marries an electrifying sense of image and sound with keenly observed humanism. Zombi Child brings a new twist to the undead genre as it takes on France’s colonial legacy.
Russian wunderkind Kantemir Balegov is all of 28 and has already made a second feature that is being called his masterpiece (do check out this debut, the very effective Closeness). Beanpole looks at the rarely captured trauma of two female soldiers in post-WWII Leningrad with the confidence and craft of a veteran.
A new film by Gurvinder Singh is reason enough. After the multiple award-winning Punjabi-language Anhe Ghore Da Daan and Chauthi Koot, Gurvinder shifts base to the hills of Himachal with this coming-of-age tale that explores modern anxieties in a small village through a non-professional cast playing themselves.
Corneliu Porumboiu is a fresh, esoteric voice emerging from the Romanian New Wave movement and his latest has been a surprising crowd-pleaser on the festival circuit. The Whistlers (La Gomera) is a neo-noir crime thriller about a crooked cop who has to pull off a heist using only an ancient Spanish whistling language. We’re in!
French actor/director/multi-hyphenate Mati Diop makes her feature debut after working with the likes of Claire Denis and directing five award-winning shorts. Atlantics is no fluke either; it won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The story of two star-crossed lovers in Senegal and filled with haunting imagery, the film is like nothing you’d expect.
Australian director Shannon Murphy’s debut feature stars Aussie heavyweights Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis as parents dealing with an increasingly rebellious teenager and her drug-dealer boyfriend. A vibrant and warm comedy about love, loss and family, Babyteeth could easily be the breakout hit of this year’s fest.
In a North Indian village, a family reunites at their ancestral home to celebrate a new birth. Over the next two decades, through festivals and feasts, births and deaths, Gamak Ghar observes the house as it ages and falls to neglect. We’ve only heard good things about 22-year-old Achal Mishra’s debut and that trailer looks beautiful.
The 21st Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival runs from 18 to 24 October.
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