The World Cinema capital and focal point for Hindi film industry (often known as Bollywood) once again saw an impressive line-up of movies (with a large chunk comprising of Cannes entrants) from across the globe making their Indian subcontinent debut at the 15th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF). The stellar array of feature presentations included the 2013 Palme d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Color, Asghar Farhadi’s French drama The Past, Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis, Before Midnight, Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo, All is Lost, Don Jon, Lee Daniel’s The Butler(opening night film) & The Fifth Estate (closing night film) to name a few.
The festival screened more than 200 films playing across three different venues under 14 varied sections including 4 competition categories – International Competition, Celebrate Age, India Gold 2013 & Dimensions Mumbai (short – film section). The festival itself is organized by MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Image) helmed by the legendary Indian filmmaker Mr. Shyam Benegal who serves as its Chairman.
In comparison to last year, the festival did lose its prominent hosting venues in NCPA and INOX which not only added to the comfort and viewing pleasure of the festival patrons, but more importantly NCPA had an enormous seating capacity ensuring the delegates don’t miss out on their favorite screening owing to limited intake. Somehow Liberty Cinemas couldn’t make restitution in that context. Also the online reservation protocol proved to be an immensely painful exercise with majority being clueless about the newly introduced reform from the outset. To add to this, the heavily criticized scheme eventually turned out to be flawed too. And with the miscreants implacably exploiting the loopholes, fraudulent practices (forged messages or morphed photocopies of printouts) soon created a domino effect thereby making an implicit mockery of the whole reservation procedure in its entirety.It also warranted a guaranteed access to a certain section of patrons for their preferred screening no matter what the turnout for the film. While some were spoilt for choices others looked down in the mouth, possibly feeling betrayed.
In spite of the reservation fiasco, the festival managed to hit the spot on numerous other levels. MFF has always stressed on the diversity in cinematic expertise when it comes to the selection of the Jury and this year was no different. Bruce Beresford, Nathalie Baye, Deepa Mehta, Masato Harada & Konkana Sen Sharma formed the elite International competition Jury. While Asghar Farhadi served as the Jury president for the India Gold category.
The festival also played host to numerous discussion panels, Masterclass & Academic Activities. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences conducted masterclass on the risk posed by the upsurge of Digital Cinema to the Motion pictures. Their second masterclass hosted by Robert Neuman highlighted the recent developments and expansion in the use of3D as a more visceral and intimate form of storytelling which was later followed by the screening of The Little Mermaid 3D.
Sitting through most of these seminars and discussions was an enlightening experience for the audience. The induction of these activities wasn’t limited to merely adding luster to the high-profile event or making it sound nicer for the press or attracting extensive cinephiles from across the country but it was somehow imperative for the creation of the overall cinematic aura as well as introducing the patrons to not just the cinematic beauty but also the challenges faced by the modern cinema, the impending perils and the way forward together.