This year there was a distinct dearth of good movies at just concluded 22nd KIFF owing mostly to improper selection and partly to the bewildering awarding policy of the most prestigious film festival. Films by joint winners this Cannes for Best Director – Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper) and Christian Mungiu (Graduation), both previous Cannes awardees, were clearly disappointing as were 2016 Palm d’Or nominees including Grand Prix and the Ecumenical Jury Prize winner – Xavier Dolon’s It’s Only the End of the World. Fresh hatches by heavy-weights were almost non-existing and those that we saw- On The Milky Road (Emir Kusturica), Death In Sarajevo, Eisenstein In Guanajuato (Peter Greenway), Unknown girl (Dardenne Brothers), Commune (Thomas Vinterberg), Bleak Street (Arturo Ripstein) , Pinneyum (Adoor Goplalakrishnan) was ….let’s say we’d seen better.
Funny thing – The Net by peddler of the weird, Kim Ki-Duk was not bad. Few films were missed – it was heard, The Olive Tree (Iciar Bollain), The Violin Player (Bauddhayan Mukherji), Lady of the Lake (Haobam Pawan Kumar) and Tree of Tongues in Tripura (Joshy Joseph), Aquarius (Kleber Mendonca Filho), Kingdom of Ants (Adam Osman) were good.
Well here’s my top 10 from what I’d seen. The ‘why’ is provided, the ‘what’ can be easily perused –
- Tie: At Your Door Step (Eduard Cortes, Spain, 2016) with Quit Staring At My Plate (Hana Jušić , Croatia/Denmark, 2016): Former is a musical about evictions occurred in Spain during economic crisis. A Spanish couple celebrates a birthday in German household in their absence – Hmm.. interesting. Staring, about a adolescent girl unable to shake her scant existence has a bit of Varda’s Vagabond about it and very nicely layered score.
- Another Time (Nahid Hasanzadeh, Iran, 2016) : Story of tribulations of an Iranian teen who gives birth out of wedlock helmed by a midwife turned director. Influences of Panahi (The Circle) seeps through along with European austerity imported by Kiarostami.
- Kiki, Love to Love (Paco Leon, France, 2016): Comedic interpretation of myraid facets of love-sex connection. Note the Inarritu-like ending and in a carnivalesque milieu.
- Glory (Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, Bulgaria, 2016) : Writ with Commie block fervor, symbolism and sarcasm – a leaf out of Kieślowski (Camera Buff), (Man of Marble / Steel) perhaps.
- Cinema Nuovo (Eryk Rocha, Brazil, 2016) : Glauber Rocha’s, key figure of Brazilian 60’s Cinema Novo movement, son’s impressionistic essay of that period. Picked Golden Eye in 2016 Cannes. Like father , like son.
- 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Kiarostami (Seyfolah Samadian, Iran, 2016): It’s what it says – capturing Kiaro’s many facets –poet, painter,photographer, editor – like a smooth breeze with homage to his seminal cinematic schema.
- Sieranevada (Christi Puiu, Romania, 2016) : From the director of ‘The Death of Mr. Lazarescu’ comes a 2h 53min chamber film set within family three days after Charlie Hebdo and forty days after protagonist’s father’s demise – fear, confrontation, past, re-evaluation and then out comes the truth. Tight.
- The Woman Who Left – (Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2016) : Lav’s acquaintance was made last year through 5h 38min of ‘From What Is Before’. This year though, a spurned lover’s revenge story, less formidable at 3h 46min was nonetheless joyous. Quite a trip. Won 2016 Won Golden Lion not for nothing.
- I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, UK, 2016): Intense, gripping grim yet heroic tale of inhumane benefits system. Great craftsmanship. Palme d’Or winner.
- Singing In Graveyards (Bradley Liew, Malaysia/Philippine, 2016) : a fortuitous find and a true one in this festival. Gradual layered loneliness of an aged Filipino rock-star impersonator, where reality flirts with delusion. Note towards end, loosing shape on chords, he coaxes rhythm by slapping palm on thigh, briefly seen to squirm inside a sealed hearse on fire and then sits outside his own shack. Loneliness is retraction of space – all kinds. Quite impressive.