The festival had quality cinematic soul food, where were the desis?
The Sydney Film Festival (SFF) which concluded recently seemed to be an outstanding success, again, if the crowds were any guide. 183 movies, 122 Australian premieres and record ticket sales over the 12 days attest to the fact that the programme was well received. Every passing year attracts important guests from the world of cinema who are proud to introduce their work and engage with the audience in Q&A’s.
One grouse with the SFF organisers, when will the daytime subscribers return full-time to the spiritual screening home of the historic, heritage-listed State Theatre?
Event 4 Cinema in George Street doesn’t quite cut it. In fact, four days to repair a broken escalator must be some sort of dubious world record, for a supposed first world city cinema?
Two Days, One Night won the Sydney Film Prize (jury prize). Featuring the incandescent French actress, Marion Cotillard, who also starred in previous crowd favourite La Vie en Rose, this is compulsive viewing when it gets a mainstream release in a few weeks.
There were a handful of Indian movies on offer, all of them good. The old masterpiece of Satyajit Ray, Pather Panchali was amongst these.
I loved Faith Connections, the documentary by Pan Nalin on the Maha Kumbh Mela, which is held every 12 years. The scale and logistics of the event are simply mind-boggling. Some poignant human interest stories were seamlessly woven in. Overall, this documentary was highly engrossing, informative and entertaining. Run, don’t walk, if it is released commercially or try and find a DVD.
Another Hindi movie which was screened at the SFF was The Lunchbox. Slated for forthcoming commercial release, this promises to be a huge crowd-pleaser. Sadly, I missed it. The word of mouth reviews from festival goers were overwhelmingly positive. With two highly accomplished actors, Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and a unique story-line, it is highly anticipated.
The other Indian movie I really liked was Siddharth (not the old Simi Garewal-Shashi Kapoor starrer!) Directed by young Canadian-Indian, Richie Mehta, it is based on the immensely sad, but true story of the disappearance of the 12-year-old son of a Delhi auto-rickshaw driver.
The British movie Locke was gripping. A bold experiment, it is not a movie you will forget in a hurry. Expect this to get mainstream release, too. It is about a man whose life is literally unravelling around him while he is driving to his destination, on perhaps the most important day of his career.
I enjoyed Korean Director Bong Joon-ho’s over-the-top, action packed science fiction movie Snowpiercer of our earth in an ice age in the not too distant future and the brutal caste system enforced on some survivors by their fellow denizens, on a train that circles the globe, non-stop.
However, my personal favourite was the dark brooding Chinese movie, Black Coal, Thin Ice. Set in a small town in contemporary China’s north, this movie won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale. Great performances, slick direction and a twisted plot made for a gripping, memorable tale. It would be surprising if this too is not released commercially soon.
Regular readers will recall my usual annual lament at the lack of interest in the Sydney Film Festival by our desi community. For a country that churns out over 1,600 movies annually (latest figures), it is disappointing that Sydneysiders of Indian origin don’t seem interested in serious cinema. Forget patronising international movies, there were hardly any Indian faces (possibly around 3- 5%) at the screenings of even the Indian movies.
Are we really so busy making a living that we are forgetting to nourish our souls? Or, just plain indifferent to patronising cultural pursuits, even evocative stories from our motherland?
And this despite the organisers of the Sydney Film Festival leaving no stone unturned in their commendable and indefatigable marketing efforts.