What I Took Away From The 18th Mumbai Film Festival - MAMI

Posted on 5 November, 2016 by Team Wishberry

Image Courtesy: Film Clinic

The Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival with Star had its curtains dropped, just a day before Diwali, after a whole week of cinematic extravaganza. And, let me say the long weekend was a much-needed breather for all the attendants. Aside from sleeping a tiny bit every night, the festival tests your patience, your sanity and makes sure that you widen your social network while at it.

I mainly did three things - watch movies, eat plenty of munchies, and party with random cinema enthusiasts. And all of this most definitely top my list of favourite things to do in life.

While the PVR Cinemas ambience is appealing and exquisite, what had me wonderstruck was the white marble finished, black chandelier laced, rose walled single screen theatre, Le Reve, in Bandra. The name basically translates to ‘The Dream’ (in French). Not only does the ambience put you in a bubble and transport you to another space, but  the festival buzz also instantly slaps you into a great mood.

You get to see them all - the celebs, the indie filmmakers, ze critics, funky men dressed in cane hats with pink ribbons. For a film festival virgin, the event will act like a portal to a funkier, sassier world.

I’m no film school alumni; I am just a girl who loves her movies. Romance, thriller, gore, comedies, rapey crime drug lord movies, the disturbing mentally draining flicks; I love them all.

My festival experience with MAMI began with one of the most anticipated and talked about films of 2016 – A Death In The Gunj (read my review here) – the opening film of the festival. The film is highly acclaimed actor Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut, starring some of the best actors in Indian cinema at present. While the film is a little under 2 hours long, it is dense and heavy and  it leaves you drained, bitter and inquisitive. The film aptly doesn’t let your mind rest for at least a day or two. But that is the case with almost half of the films that screen at festivals, they aren’t romanticised. In fact, they mirror societies with a spotlight on its imperfections.

I went on to catch A Conversation Between Zoya Akhtar and Cary Fukunaga, Railway Children, Certain Women, Autohead, The Similars, The Neon Demon, Swiss Army Man, and Lipstick Under My Burkha (read my review here) while not all of them were great, but goodness they were intense! However, I missed some of the most impressive works of 2016 like The Salesman, The Wailing, I, Daniel Blake, Loev, Trapped and more. The reason, I was confused as to how I should go about it.

For a first-timer, any film festival can be a tad overwhelming – How to book seats? What should one wear to not look odd amidst the glamour? And what can one do waiting in a queue for two hours? Here are some of my takeaways from my first film festival in case you plan to catch IFFI that’ll be running from 20th November onwards.

1. Go through the line-up: Do your homework and familiarise yourself with the schedule. As the calendar doesn’t include a synopsis to all films it is essential you look up at least a few films that would be screening before or after the flick you’re planning to catch. A little prep goes a long way in ensuring you enjoy the festival.

2. Pick films for content: Remember, the movies that have A-list actors will definitely screen at a local theatre in the near future, so shortlist films to catch based on interesting plot lines.

3. Study the venue: Cities in general are always trafficked, especially if there’s a festival running. Make sure the films you pick to catch are being screened at the same venue or have enough time to travel between venues.

4. Pre-book: For MAMI the tickets were available to book a day before the movie is being screened early in the morning at 8 a.m. And, the waiting line for the walk-in audience eats up 2 hours per movie. Do avoid it by simply pre-booking your seats.

5. Early morning shows are awesome too: Just because a film is screening at 9 a.m. doesn’t mean it’s not superb. Not only are early-morning shows generally a foreign language film that'll introduce you to a hidden corner of the world, but also they are extremely convenient to catch.

6. Talk to strangers: Part of the fun of attending an event like this is the interesting people you meet. More than the films, what I took away from this experience were the insightful conversations I had with some really talented self-taught filmmakers, screenwriters and media peeps. Some shared their work with me and some came up with an alternate end to a film we just caught while waiting in queue to catch another flick.  

7. Don’t forget about the educational filmmaking events: Of course, films steal the spotlight, but every festival also organises a couple filmmaking events with some of the most talented filmmakers across the globe. This year, I caught Cary Fukunaga of the Beasts of No Nation and True Detective fame having a conversation with Zoya Akhtar. Their humble exchange of words on why they tell stories, how they aim to invoke conscience among the masses, and what drives them had me awestruck. Do catch their chat HERE.

All in all, the experience was hearty - learned a lot, made good connections, watched amazing films. I can’t wait to catch MAMI again next year!

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