MAMI Film Festival - Day 1

Oct 26, 2018 Piyush Chopra

The 20th Jio MAMI Film Festival has finally arrived. Selecting films to watch on a particular day turned out to be a daunting task and not just because of the fantastic lineup of films that are going to be screened over the next 7 days. A system crash that led to booking of tickets for your chosen films about as easy as climbing up a plain wall, the festival got off to an inauspicious start. However, its hard to remain mad at festival that offers me a chance to watch the cream of the crop international films on the big screen rather than on a tiny laptop a few months later.

I will be covering on a daily basis the films that I watch over the duration of the fest. Let's get into Day 1 and all that it held.

Hotel By The River

The first of 2 films by prolific Korean director Hong Sangsoo showcasing at MAMI festival is an existential and at times surprisingly comical take on an awkward family reunion between a father and his two sons at a quaint hotel, interspersed with interactions between two female friends suffering through their own difficulties of existence.

Shot in beautiful black-and-white and long takes (with plenty of zooms), the film is more conversation-oriented instead of action. The two different stories don't come together as well as Sangsoo would've hoped for but the dialogue and the performances are wonderfully naturalistic and most of what the characters have to say and do is highly relevant. The comparison between lifeless trees and human life withering away is a bit straightforward but effective, and the whole film functions as a larger metaphor for modern day life.

Overall, Hotel By The River is touching, tragic and darkly funny far too often and gets the festival off to a crackling start

Boy Erased

My excitement to watch Joel Edgerton's follow-up to the superlative The Gift was palpable but Boy Erased turns out to be too simplistic for a film tackling a heavy-duty topic such as gay conversion therapy and Catholic guilt.

The biggest problem with Boy Erased is that it is a film more concerned with unmasking the horrors of conversion therapy rather than about a young gay man who is made to suffer through such atrocities, and there isn't even enough anger in Edgerton's storytelling to effectively shame the religious acts.

It's still a simple story told with enough sensitivity and empathy to touch your heart at a few points and the performances are mostly convincing. It may not have been the incisive and layered film that I was hoping for but it was a heartfelt story that should play well to festival crowds looking to shed a tear or two.


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