The best part of living in Hollywood is walkability. Have I mentioned that already? One of the events I was fortunate to be able to walk up to was the 2016 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, happening right down the street from where I live…about 15-20 minutes by walk, which makes for a 30 minute stroll but given the fantastic weather here, who’s complaining?! Held the weekend of 6-10, it gave me an opportunity to mix and mingle with members of the South Asian communities in L.A involved in the film and entertainment industries.
It was a well-attended event for sure. The Indian community and those interested in the work from the diaspora were certainly out in full force. The central location made it all the better – Arclight on Sunset Blvd is a pretty cool space to host. Grabbing a bite onsite or at any of the restaurants around the area is easy. They also had a pretty cool bar area for attendees which was fun, although I sorely missed not having any samosas and chai for the screenings – what’s a desi movie watching experience without those ingredients?
Essentially one movie but felt like three shorts built into the overall theme of in a way I guess showing how each person is on their own in sort of this no man’s land that is society. And trying to do what they want to and not what is wanted of them. Not necessarily with the best results always of course. Where I found parts of one to be absurd, I found parts of another to be very real and at the same time parts unreal and fantasy-land-ish.
Was in for quite the surprise on this one to see Tony Revelori (Grand Budapest Hotel fame) cast as a young Indian lad…he was pretty convincing too. Dreams of foreign, usually America, are a constant pursuit for many an Indian family and the pressures faced by the sons who must care for their parents are equally a burden. The movie did a great job of portraying both in a manner apt for the storyline. Didn’t love it but was a great watch. This was preceded by a short titled Love Comes Later. A young woman working at a motel discovers that she is pregnant and the drama that ensues is the crux of the 10-minute video.
I rarely, if ever, get to watch a movie in Tamil, leave alone one on the big screen so it was a no brainer that I’d be heading for this. South Asians were in to show their support and it was pretty cool that the director was there as well. The movie itself can be pretty hard to watch, there is a certain amount of violence that could be difficult to swallow but nothing that wasn’t essential to proving the point of the movie. I was glued to the screen the whole time and with every twist and turn, in the plot and the cinematography, had to hold myself together not getting involved in what was clearly just a movie here, but could and probably very well is the reality of life in some parts of India and the world even. Kudos to the director and his actors for this thought-provoking production. Disturbing? Thoroughly! And that’s the point of it – to make you so uncomfortable and out of your zone with what you see that you can have a discussion about it. In fact, a male audience member asked in the Q&A after if it was necessary to show so much violence, and the director’s response, God bless his soul, was, “I don’t care to turn a blind eye.” May you continue to make amazing content in this same caring manner! I strongly recommend watching this movie to see the true girth of Indian cinema and what is being produced in the country now that is not all song and dance and big weddings and garden romance.
My sole purpose for watching Beeba Boys was to get my fill of Randeep Hooda. There, I said it. Didn’t hurt that the movie was Mira Nair’s of course, very stylistically shot in Canada and featuring the drug problems that abound in the Punjabi community there. Production power was certainly high on this one and while I enjoyed the movie coming along, it didn’t do much for me in terms of a good endnote bringing it all together.
For the Love of a Man
This one is on Rajnikanth and the craziness displayed by his fans. A documentary looking at the frenzy caused by the star than the star as the subject. I’ve never been the person to go that crazy over a film star. I enjoy movies for their entertainment value and believe stars have a certain place in our lives but can never give them that much power over mine as you can see from some of the behaviors expressed by true Rajni fans as they call themselves. Building temples for another human being seems beyond comprehension in my mind. I liked the alternate storyline adopted by the filmmaker and think if you want to see the madness that some of the general public allows then this will prove it to you.
Shorts 2 - This program included 5 movies, one made by the young filmmaker we hosted at our home so of course we watched it!
Babu’s Dilemma – Taking off from the plight of skilled workers in the growing economy that is Dubai, the story focuses on one man’s urge to want to send his wife back home a gift worthy of the love that time and distance has brought into their lives yet unable to do so given his financial and time limitations. The end though was a bit too filmy and almost non-practical.
Chhaya the Shadow – A sweet animated movie on an older couple’s love where reality and fantasy straddle a very thin line in one widower’s world.
Leeches – I had to hold my breath at one point considering what was being done with said leeches that is in the title of the movie. The short addresses the issue of young brides but given that it’s a short, really takes you straight on to the way one young bride figures out how to get rid of her new old-aged husband. You can let your imagination run lose or go find the movie and watch it to see what I am talking about.
Mast Qalandar – Another sweet movie about a Sikh boy entering his teens and wanting to head for a shorter hair-do but frustrated by the tradition and norms of the society he is a part of. All he needs is a pair of scissors yet they are hard to come by, and when they do, he does as is his heart wills.
Mochi the Cobbler- This movie was made by the filmmaker we hosted Saqib Pandor. The movie is really about one situation, one instance, one circumstance but how much ones life depends on it relevant to ones lifestyle. A cobbler in a tough situation can not think beyond a problem but the tensions of it and the expectation of himself, his son, his customer, his competitor are all factor so this screenplay. Character study 101.
Another Tamil movie that I added to my calendar soon as I knew it was playing at this festival. Loved the story and the actors – all great performances all around. Young lad gets close to some cops and gets to ‘take revenge’ on some folks he has a personal vengeance against not fully taking into account how that will affect him personally and the price he will have to pay for his youthful bashful decisions. A new angle to examine crime and corruption in Chennai.
Kothanodi – River of Fables
Point of heading to this was to watch something from India from a different state and how often does one get to watch something Assamese?! Bhaskar Hazarika is a feted director so I was excited to see his work and the fact that he had Seema Biswas in this movie was only icing on the cake. That said, the movie left much to be desired for me. Maybe I am not artsy enough to understand or maybe I need to know some of the local fables/folklore to grasp these storylines but much of the movie was very disturbing and I am not entirely sure if it was symbolism for harder truths of life? All of the stories stem from the concept of motherhood and each version shows a character vastly different from the other but the stories are mostly terribly gory and almost go off on a tangent unexpected which might take some time embracing.
I enjoyed most of the movies shown as well as the opportunities to network with some of the film folks that were in attendance and available to speak with attendees after their movies screened. I expected the filmmakers' roundtable they hosted to allow more for an audience interaction and also to be scheduled after all the movies had shown rather than ahead of the majority of the screenings. It was moderated and the organizers did a good job of asking relevant questions on the state of Indian cinema and censorship, etc. but I do believe audience participation was not up to to the mark. I wasn’t familiar with the work of most of the directors and had to take a back seat on this one. I am looking forward to next year’s screenings and hope to see more from home closer to where I live now.
Side note: One of the movies screened that I missed is now on Netflix and titled Brahman Naman. There was a lot of buzz around it and I did make a note to watch it if it became available online. Lets just say I have lots of thoughts on the movie. Some of the scenes were totally for the shock value. The overall movie of misfits and their meandering lives I will applaud the director for taking on in a society that is so into its masala movies, and action heroes rescuing depressed damsels and other such nonsense. I also liked that all the actors were ordinary looking and not the glamour figures Bollywood cinema is accustomed to. If you watch it, I’d like to know your thoughts in the comments below.
Additional side note: Another movie titled Parched is also available now on Netflix. Will post a review her once watched!