Weekend @ FTII International Students’ Film Festival

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year and in what couldn’t have turned out to be a better weekend, I went along to have my slice of cinema on the first two days of this four-day cinematic extravaganza.

FTII is in many ways a story in and of itself. There is something hypnotic about the place that has been instrumental in churning out some of the best filmmakers of the industry. As I strolled along once done with the registration, loudspeakers and walls with inscribed images of Charlie Chaplin, Satyajit Ray and Tagore caught my eye. What caught my eye also was the medley of interesting people turned up for the event: tall lanky men in flowing kurtas done in vibrant shades of yellow and red, film makers from across the seven seas, girls with big bright beads around their necks and an all-encompassing cigarette burning a hole in their ring embellished fingers…

There were just a couple of movies which left me cold but from the others, here’s my pick:

1. Down in number 5
Kim Spurlock: Tisch School of the Arts, NYU

Who will look after your loved ones when you’re no more? If you’re Carl Short and have a developmentally disabled son and a terminal illness knocking at your door, some decisions can get too numbing to get by.

Based on a true story, this is one film that asks aplenty leading questions. For its subtlety, its perspective and wonderful insight into the complexities of the human mind, Down in number 5 – at the risk of sounding clichéd – goes deep down in your mind all the way to your heart.

2. Birds Get Vertigo Too
Sarah Cunningham: La Femis, Paris

I have an aunt who claims documentaries are dead cinema and watched by people who detest colour in life. I have a good mind to drag her to a screening of this brilliant French film about two performers in a travelling circus – Shaena, a trapeze artist and Barnz, her counterweight. The film traces their life as they go through a whirlwind of practice sessions, overcoming their fears and insecurities, learning to depend on each other and bettering their art. But even as heights dissolve and wings sprout, birds up getting vertigo too.

A gem of a concept, brought alive with fine camera work and an engaging timeline. A must watch!

3. Ukadi Pukdi (Animation)
Swarup Deb, Avinash Medhe, Dhruv Rao, Jaikar Marur, Anuj Sharma: National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad

Little clay girl has a single leg. Her plant keeps growing past her black chalk marks but no amount of watering makes her leg grow back. Tiny little Ukadi Pukdi has something about her – the animation that brought her to life? Or the innocence of this 5 minute tale?

Direct cut-to-cut animation but beauty in every frame. Delightful!

4. What Light (Animation)
Sarah Wickens: Royal School of Art, London

Sunlight – all forgiving, placid, warm? You might just be mistaken. As the sun creeps in through a window in this contemporary London apartment, it couldn’t get more notorious.

Downright outstanding animation work and complete justice to the title.

5. Kirkonkylä Kyrkby
Elise Pietarila: Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Thirteen year old Pasi starts middle school and is deluged by rules that are made in Parents’ meetings. Older people empty their collection of rules, school teachers fill in the gaps. Pasi and his Very Best Friend go by respecting the ways of the world while continuing to giggle and nibble.

The ice capped environs on Finland have been exploited to full use, making this one of the most visually appealing of films. The subject being so easily relatable and the second person narrative style adding a tinge of sarcasm to the tale, this village-church is one anyone would love to visit.

Films that left me cold:

1. A Little Less Hesitation
Nefali Sarri: NUCT, Rome

A story (?) about a girl new to pornography and getting used to this sleazy yet existential way of life. It could be the lack of sufficient backdrop or the rather discontinued frames, but this didn’t quite get down my throat.

2. Eloisa
Ramiro Diaz: Universidad Del Cine, Argentina

Lonely Eloisa goes by her day in loneliness and cleans and spring cleans lonely tiles and lonely walls and lonely restrooms. In the confines of her lonely home, her loneliness boomerangs again. Oh my, the ‘loneliness’ factor jarred even more in print than it does as I write about it here. This left me fish cold.

Update: Eloisa won in the fiction category. My mouth opened and shut like a goldfish at the news. I so badly want to talk to the jury and ask them what exactly made the film click… exactly what I missed. 😦

If only this Monday and Tuesday were MKCL yearly offs, I would happily treat the first person I saw this morning. But sadly, my 23.6” monitor is all I am going to get to watch this week.

They should do a documentary on us – Dedicated DU Developers @ MKCL – who abstain from badminton and ruckus and all things non work. Let me go spread the word.

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