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Mumbai Film Festival 2017: What’s in store

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-09-2017 Uday Bhatia

The press conference for the 19th edition of the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) at the JW Marriott in Juhu on Thursday ended with uncorking of bottles of Chandon, one of the festival partners. In a more arthouse cinema-friendly land, such celebration might seem premature, but in a city (and country) where international film festivals are few and far between, just the thought of MFF and a week of unadulterated cinephilia can be heady.

Monica Bellucci. Photo courtesy: Riccardo Tinelli / H&K

Though it wasn’t announced at the press conference, news soon emerged that the festival has snagged a major crowd-puller in Italian actor Monica Bellucci. “I am very touched and honoured to receive an award by the Mumbai Film Festival as well as presenting some of my films there,” the star of Irreversible and Spectre said in a statement. “It is very exciting to come to India for the first time.”

Also at this year’s festival are British director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), who’s heading the international jury, and The Florida Project and Silent Light cinematographer Alexis Zabe (more names will be announced in the coming weeks).

The opening film this year is Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz, which recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Kashyap, present at the press conference, said he was thrilled as none of his films had played at the festival before, and that he’d passed Busan over for MFF for the Asia premiere of his film, a statement which drew scattered applause.

Lounge has just learnt about another big Asia premiere at the festival: The Song of Scorpions. Anup Singh’s Rajasthan-set film is one of the more anticipated films of 2017 in Indian arthouse circles, not least because of its tantalising pairing of Irrfan Khan and Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani.

A still from ‘Loveless’.

This year’s lineup looks solid, with 220 films from 49 countries. The World Cinema section has the top award winners from Cannes (Ruben Ostlund’s The Square) and Berlin (Ildikó Enyedi’s On Body and Soul), along with titles from some of the most acclaimed filmmakers working today: Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), three from Hong Sangsoo (Claire’s Camera, The Day After and On The Beach At Night Alone), Andrey Zvyagintsev (Loveless), Hirokazu Kore-eda (The Third Murder) and Aki Kaurismaki (The Other Side of Hope). The International Competition section, open to debut filmmakers from all over the world, is usually where fortuitous discoveries are made; this year, the titles include Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not A Witch and Alireza Khatami’s Oblivion Verses.

A stll from ‘Sexy Durga’.

The India Gold competition section looks strong as well, with Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Sexy Durga and Rahul Jain’s Machines having already garnered praise on the international circuit, and Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar’s Up Down & Sideways and Devashish Makhija’s Ajji looking very promising. Kamal Swaroop’s Pushkar Puran, in the non-competition India Story section, seems like an excellent meeting of director and material.

There is one significant change from last year: the Movie Mela, a Bollywood-themed parallel event, will be held before the festival starts this year. With announcements pending for restored films (there was a glimpse of Toshio Matsumoto’s 1969 freakout Funeral Parade of Roses in the festival trailer), the experimental section, the Movie Mela and the closing film, not to mention other jury members and festival honorees, the next few weeks should see film fans constantly revising their must-watch lists.

Visit www.mumbaifilmfestival.com for the programme and other details.

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