What You Should Watch at the 15th Mumbai International Film Festival

It may not have the most cutting edge line-up, but here's a list of documentaries, shorts and animation films we recommend you catch at the biennial film festival
A still from "Atul"
A still from "Atul"

The Mumbai International Film Festival, 2018, is here. As with every edition, the biennial event gives the impression of having arrived late to the party. The line-up doesn't exactly reflect the most cutting-edge work in the world of documentary, short and animation films. There isn't any film from the Academy award nominees from 2018, or any other top film festival. Instead it opens with I'm Not Your Negro, an Academy Award nominee from 2017 — a bit old for a film festival, but, nevertheless, a good chance to watch the film on the big screen.

The list of Indian films in the festival, organised by the Films Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, is much more updated. Some of the most exciting and original documentaries, yet to release in theatres or video streaming platforms, are playing in MIFF, which will run from January 29 to February 3 at the Films Division complex in Mumbai's Pedder Road. As for the short and animation film categories, bursting with a new lease of life thanks to the internet, expect more surprises and discoveries. Here's our list of films(in no particular order) you should watch in the 15th edition of MIFF.

1. Atul – Old Hindi film songs, classroom memories, Mahatma Gandhi, and the opening of his latest art exhibition in town —  Kamal Swaroop's documentary looks at the life of Atul Dodiya with the idiosyncrasy that underlines the artist's work.

2. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings: The documentary film evocatively looks at Manohar Aich, the body-builder from West Bengal and a former Mr. Universe, in his last few years before he died at the age of 104 years.

3. Cinema Travellers: Amit Madheshiya and Shirley Abraham's labour of love is a dazzling, lucid chronicling of the dying tradition of the tent-cinemas of rural Maharashtra. Here's your chance to watch the film, if you missed it at the Mumbai Film Festival, 2016.

4. Sakhisona: Archeology-meets-folklore in Prantik Basu's hypnotic, black-and-white short, based on an excavation site in a West Bengal village.

5. Santhal Family to Mill Recall: RV Ramani's film looks at the work of Ramkinkar Baij through a cross-genre exhibition on the painter, sculptor, theatre practitioner that was held in Delhi in 2015.

6. Some Stories Around Witches: Lipika Singh Darai's documentary throws light on the horrors of witch-hunting in the interiors of Orissa.

7. Bismaar Ghar: Shreyas Dasharathe's Gujarati film, based in Ahmedabad, observes an old house and its 3 inhabitants, as they prepare to move to a new flat they've got under the Prime Minister's Housing Scheme.

8. From Mao to Mozart: Isac Stern in China – Murray Lerner had the knack of being present with his camera at the time of birth of historic musical moments — including when Bob Dylan "went electric". Lerner's Oscar winning documentary followed violinist Isac Stern to China, soon after the end of the Cultural Revolution that had prohibited Western classical music in the country. Lerner filmed Stern tutoring and mentoring young Chinese musicians. A new era began.

9. Maccher Jhol(The Fish Curry): Abhishek Verma's 2D animated short brings together the comfort of the Bengali fish curry and the discomfort of coming out to a parent.

10. Machines: In this documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (and won the Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography), US-educated filmmaker Rahul Jain returns to his hometown in Gujarat to capture the sensory experience he had as a child in a small textile factory.

11. Afternoon Clouds: A 60-year-old widow, a domestic help and a stranger from her hometown, and mosquito repellant smoke that induces nightmares: Payal Kapadia's short has a strange premise. It was the only Indian film in the Cannes Film Festival last year.

12. Children of Mini-Japan: Filmmaker Challam Bennurkar, who passed away last year, is a pioneering figure in documentary filmmaking in Karnataka. His award-winning film from 1991 on the child workers of Sivakasi, the village in Tamil Nadu and the largest producer of fireworks in India, is arguably his best known work.

13. Animated shorts of Bhimsain Khurana:  A retrospective package on Khurana, the creator of the iconic "Ek Anek our Ekta", and an old hand in Indian animation, illustrates the naive power of the art form.

14. A Film Unfinished: Israeli director Yael Hersonski's film about an unfinished propaganda film on the Warsaw Ghetto exposes the cinematic manipulation behind how we see historic images.

15. Vaishali: Prachi Sharma's intriguing short fiction is about a girl who, moments before committing suicide, changes her mind when a stranger offers to suggest her a better suicide spot.

For details of the schedule, please visit https://miff.in

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