Dispatch: MAMI 2019 Round-Up
Everything you need to know to navigate the annual Mumbai Film Festival - India's largest and glitziest film event - like a pro!
End October is an exciting time in India – the stuffy, post Monsoon heat is on its way out and wintery winds are drifting in, Dussehra has just passed, Diwali shopping and travel plans are in full swing and of course for film buffs, the film festival circuit is being kicked off by the grandest and best endowed of Indian film festivals – the Jio Mumbai Film Festival with Star.
The festival is run by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image, popularly known as MAMI and according to their website, “is a space where Aamir Khan, Quentin Tarantino, Zhang Yimou and Rajinikanth would all feel equally at home.” In its 21st edition this year, the festival was more frenetically attended than ever before. And no wonder, given the line up of independent art house, Hollywood and Bollywood films featured. The festival saw Master Classes from the likes of Ari Aster (of Hereditary fame) and Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardner) with the World Cinema section featuring the latest best from genre auteurs like Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster), Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Volver), Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven, Goodbye Berlin), Jim Jarmusch (Down by Law, Coffee and Cigarettes, Only Lovers Left Alive), Agnes Varda (The World of Jacques Demy, Faces Places), photojournalist and documentary maker Lauren Greenfield (Generation Wealth), Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), the whimsical Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), James Gray (We Own the Night, The Lost City of Z) and Brooklyn born indie icon Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha).
Phew! Now you know why attending MAMI is simultaneously a most fulfilling and exhausting experience! While the festival is an early Christmas for most movie lovers, for the newcomer it can be a fairly daunting experience. The process of securing a seat for a coveted film can be as tenacious as participating in a triathlon. Here too, you will have to prove your determination in three steps:
1) Booking your festival pass by registering on Book My Show : this is the easiest part of the process. It won’t hurt as much either with the pass costing you a mere Rs.500/- for an entire week of films.
2) Waking up at 7:45am every day (including the day before Day 1) : to ensure that you are on the Book My Show portal, logged in, with your thumbs at their dexterous best, ready to block seats for the four screenings you want to attend the next day. This is the most crucial part of the process. For the most sought after films, screens sell out in a matter of minutes!
3) Reaching your selected screen on time : if you manage to secure a seat online for your desired film, hurray! You only need to show up 15 minutes before the film starts (though I recommend a 25min run up) and wait in the ‘reserved’ line, which gets priority entry for up to 10-15 minutes before the start of the film. If you’re a slow riser, or arrive after the priority entries have ended, then be prepared to face **drumroll** the dreaded ‘walk-in’ line!
SIDE BAR: Essentially, the walk-in line is the MAMI equivalent of a Bollywood plot twist – anything could happen and your guess about your fate in this line is as good as the next person’s. The golden gates to the screen only open up for the walk-in line once all the ‘reserved’ seats have been filled, and for every no-show or late comer there is a palpable mental fist bump that ripples through the walk-in line. You are not allowed to hold your spot in the walk-in line and go for a wander - not a rule set by MAMI of course but by the fiery glares of the others in queue, some of whom will have started queuing up to two hours prior! Now, whether you get a seat depends entirely on the magical PVR / Book My Show algorithm that counts the total number of seats in the auditorium, the number of people already inside and of course the number of seats reserved for VIPs. Yes, like everything in our lives driven by technology, this world of access can feel a bit murky . Though it does make managing logistics and large groups of passionate, hungry people easier. Proof? Not a single film I attended at MAMI this year started late – the schedule ran like clockwork.
Now, now – I didn’t mean to scare you away! There is a cheat sheet available with Lost The Plot - simply chose a theatre complex that is as far south in Mumbai as possible. For example, at Regal Cinema, with its gargantuan cinema hall of 1166 seats, it is much simpler to watch a film whether you are in the reserve or walk-in line. You’re likely to meet a similar fate at the Juhu and Lower Parel High Street Phoenix theatres. If you plan your days properly, make your Festival schedule your Bible for the week and pick one location per day, you may just make friends - even in the walk in line.
While MAMI is known for introducing top-notch World Cinema films to Indian audiences, my favourite part of the festival is discovering the local talent that is putting India on the map. Amidst the running around, I was lucky to have caught Gitanjali Rao’s beautifully animated homage to Bombay, ‘Bombay Rose’ as well as Archana Atul Phadke’s heart-warming documentary ‘About Love.’ I also managed to watch ‘Axone’ (pronounced aa-khoo-ni) by Nicholas Kharkongor whose debut feature ‘Mantra’ starring Rajat Kapoor and Kalki Koechlin Lost The Plot had the honour of premiering at the Rooftop Cinema in Pune, as well as ‘Sindhustan’ an intimate personal exploration of the Sindhi diaspora by Sapna Moti Bhavnani. And lastly, Slow Burn (Ranj) by Sunit Sinha, a tightly wound Punjabi film about the difficulties of modern urban migration.
It took me an entire week to get over the MAMI hangover and I'm still flipping through the mammoth Festival Program, discovering films that I could have seen. And so as a parting gift, here is my handpicked list of films from the festival that you should definitely be on the look out for in the coming year!
Midsommar by Ari Aster
Ad Astra by James Gray
Aamis by Bhaskar Hazarika
Eeb Allay Ooo! By Prateek Vats
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator by Eva Orner (releases 20th Nov. on Netflix)
Honey Boy by Alma Har’el (releases 8th Nov. on Amazon Prime)
Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach (releases 6th Dec. on Netflix)
Pain and Glory by Pedro Almodovar
The Beach Bum by Harmony Korine
The Irishman by Martin Scorsese: (releases 27th Nov. on Netflix)
The Staggering Girl by Luca Guadagnino: (coming soon to MUBI)
The Two Popes by Fernando Meirelles: (coming soon to Netflix)
I Lost My Body by Jeremy Clapin: (releases 29th Nov. on Netflix)