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Alfonso Cuaron faced many a hurdle in the process of making Roma. From no studio taking the risk of funding a Mexican black and white movie to his friend and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki being unavailable to shoot the film, he faced his fair share of difficulties. But Roma is not just any other film for Cuaron, it is a deeply personal project and a reflection of his own childhood. So Roma had to be made and Cuaron went to every extent possible to make sure of that. I’m lucky that I don’t write about films professionally (I wish to, someday) because there’s no way that I could have written about it immediately after seeing it. It’s been a month and a half since I saw Roma and not until now could I finally absorb that experience and try to put together words to describe it ― such is the power and effect of this film. It is beautiful, breathtaking, heartbreaking and I could go on but I will surely fall short of adjectives.

Roma primarily follows the life of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a maid-cum-nanny working in a bourgeois household in Mexico City in the 1970s. Antonio, a doctor in the local hospital, and his wife Sofia (Marina De Tavira) seem to live in harmony with their four kids with Antonio often going away for what are supposedly work-related trips. Cleo is a young woman who is very fond of her employer’s kids and cares for them with a motherly touch. She is less the talkative-type and loves to enjoy her life with the time she gets for herself by going out with the other maid of the house. The film, while telling her story, also tells the story of a dysfunctional and tension-stricken household in the background of the turmoil in the political scenario of Mexico back then and champions feminism.

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma (Courtesy – Netflix)

Roma’s greatest achievement is how it is mainly just an observation of life and people. It is a vivid and emotional representation of a quotidian domestic life. It shows Cleo and Sofia, and their respective set of problems that they go through parallelly. While Sofia tries to manage the house amidst Antonio’s long absence, Cleo has to deal with an absurd and shady boyfriend to begin with. But in spite of a clearly represented power gap, Cleo and Sofia somehow always have each other’s backs ― because as Sofia says in one scene to Cleo, “We women always have to look after each other.”

Roma’s premise might seem uninteresting on the outset but Cuaron blends such an emotional and tearjerking tale that, as the film progresses, you start getting extremely attached to it and, like me, might find your heart skipping a beat sometimes or your eyes getting misty. Cuaron’s camera is just a silent observer as Cleo and Sofia’s life unfolds before your eyes as they go through each passing day, not knowing what the future holds for them and their family.

Roma, named after a district in Mexico, has one star who shines throughout the course of the film and that is director Alfonso Cuaron. He not only directed the film but also shot, produced and edited it. Cuaron tells a very personal story which is based on his own childhood and memories. His nanny had an immense contribution in his upbringing and he set out to tell a story that would honour her and express his eternal gratitude towards her. From rigorous casting calls to find the Cleo who would remind him of his nanny to recreating 1970’s Mexico City with pinpoint precision, Cuaron really put his all behind his passion project ― which I think is most definitely his magnum opus.

Roma has a gorgeous cinematography (Courtesy – Netflix) Roma is shot gorgeously in a stunning wide black and white format.

The film wows right from the very first shot of the airplane reflected in the water puddle and the beauty is maintained throughout. Cuaron switches between the long observant shots to follow the characters or establish the setting and close-up shots when the characters are elated or vulnerable, expressing their emotions. The sound design, which was produced using state of the art Dolby Atmos technology, effortlessly compliments the cinematography and adds to the rich experience of the film. The film also has an elaborate production design which includes a camp for training government funded mercenaries, an aristocratic hacienda and a Mexico City riddled with student demonstrations.

The actors, like Cuaron himself, are really invested in the story which shows in their performances. Yalitza Aparicio, who plays Cleo, delivers one of the most fascinating performances of the year. Aparicio, who is an elementary school teacher by profession, has never acted in anything before and plays her character with immense emotional depth. Her mother is a domestic help in real life and so, she has a proper first-hand understanding of the role that she plays in the film. Marina De Tavira also brings out the inner turmoils and vulnerabilities of the extremely caring Sofia effortlessly. They deserve immense applause in bringing out the emotional sides of two very typical characters, people we come across all the time but don’t seem to care about much about.

A still from Roma (Courtesy – Netflix)

Roma has not been without its fair share of controversies starting from the Cannes Film Festival where the film was originally supposed to premiere but was pulled out by Netflix due to strict restrictions preventing streaming films from participating in the competition section of the festival. Netflix has been bashed by people all over the world for not giving a proper theatrical release to Roma. While they do deserve a pat on the back for backing a film that no one dared to, the criticism here is absolutely legitimate as Roma is a film which demands the big screen experience. While Netflix has been more liberal with Roma in terms of theatrical releases (Roma is getting limited theatrical action in 40 countries, a first for a Netflix film), it still falls massively short of what’s necessary and if they start backing more and more auteurs, they really need to rethink their theatrical policy. I consider myself really lucky to have caught it at a theatre due to the film being part of a film festival. 

Roma has received universal acclaim and won accolades all over the world, starting with the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival where it premiered. It is Mexico’s official Foreign Language submission to the 2019 Academy Awards and it is speculated that Roma will join an elite category of films to have been nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Film categories at the Oscars.

There’s a fascinating story about Roma’s production. It was Yalitza Aparicio’s sister who was supposed to audition for the part of Cleo. It was the first time that such a mass casting call had been made for a big budget Mexican film. But Aparacio’s sister became pregnant and would not fit the part but she forced her sister to take her place in the audition instead, even accompanying her to it. Cuaron was immediately taken aback by her audition at how similar she was to his own nanny and, after a couple more screen tests, he selected her for the part. Coincidentally, Aparicio is from Oaxaca, the same state where Liboria Rodriguez, Cuaron’s nanny, grew up.
It is only fair that a magical film like Roma has a magical story like this.

ROMA | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube

Roma releases worldwide on Netflix on December 14. You May Also Like: Jonaki (2018) ‘KIFF’ Review

The post Roma (2018) Review – A film that makes you fall short of adjectives appeared first on The Projection Room.

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Crumbling walls. Broken stairwells. Damp floors covered with overgrowth and rot. Such is the haunting world of decaying memories which the 80-year-old Jonaki returns to in her sleep, perhaps searching for some sort of closure to her lifelong unfulfilled hopes, dreams, and desires. Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s astounding sophomore effort Jonaki was inspired by his own grandmother, who lay in a coma for 4 days before passing away. It is a film borne out of the director’s reimagination of what his grandmother experienced in the final moments of her life, as she lay in her trance, inaudibly murmuring to herself. Abstract by design yet intimate in effect, Jonaki manages to plumb the depths of memories and dreams and captures their fleeting coherence with such authenticity and profound beauty that only very few can match.

There’s a popular belief that one’s life flashes by before their eyes as they are about to die. The titular character in Jonaki experiences the same, reminiscing about her life while lying unconscious, thereby fusing memories with dreams. Image Courtesy: Magic Hour Films

The film begins with a close-up shot of Jonaki (played effortlessly by the experienced Lolita Chatterjee) waking up in the house where she spent her adolescent days with her parents. She finds her once familiar abode now covered with rust and mold, accompanied by the sounds of a ticking clock and cooing pigeons. The camera lingers deliberately during these initial few frames, absorbing in the environmental details, allowing both Jonaki and us viewers to slowly adjust to this strange reality we find ourselves in. We are gradually introduced to the rest of the people in her life, beginning with her father (Sumanto Chattopadhyay), a botanist apparently studying the effects of classical music on plant life.

Her mother (Ratnabali Bhattacharjee) worries about the father overworking himself as he awaits recognition for his research from a university in England. She is also a strict authoritarian, sternly rebuking the 19-year-old Jonaki for meeting her lover on the sly, a Christian boy wordlessly portrayed by a very natural Jim Sarbh. It is an unfortunate situation, but one also very typical of Indian households in the early 20th century, where Jonaki’s marriage has been fixed by her family to a much older man who—despite being from an affluent background—is a total stranger to her.

Jonaki - trailer | IFFR 2018 - YouTube

A lot has been said about the film’s pace and its distinct brand of visual storytelling, the seeming absence of strong narrative threads or the use of metaphors and symbolism within the images presented. While some have applauded the rich, immersive cinematography, others have complained about the threadbare plot and being frustrated while trying to decipher the film’s messages. Parallels have been drawn, inevitably, to European arthouse masters like Sergei Parajanov and Andrei Tarkovsky, especially since the latter’s The Mirror (Zerkalo) [1975] comes to mind almost immediately upon watching Jonaki.

But perhaps the most striking quality of the film that warrants such bold comparison has to be Sengupta’s editing pattern, wherein he sculpts through time as masterfully as Tarkovsky himself, allowing the frames just enough space to breathe and inspire contemplation. The key thing to remember here is that almost the entire film takes place within a dreamscape, depicting a state of (un)consciousness during a coma where images and words often tumble back and forth in chaos.

Image Courtesy: Magic Hour Films Writer-director Aditya Vikram Sengupta employs a series of carefully-constructed oneiric images that take us on a trip through Jonaki’s subconscious.

The film almost forfeits any sense of linear causality in its narrative structure and rightfully progresses through episodic visions, as the old woman relives incidents and experiences from her life. We see her peeling oranges with her lover in a park, knitting a white wedding gown under a staircase and also sitting dejected on her marriage bed as her newlywed husband rambles on, oblivious to her pain. Sengupta makes an interesting choice here by having Lolita Chatterjee play the role of Jonaki across time, and not using different actresses to depict her teenage and adult years, essentially keeping the character time-constant within her dream. And the veteran actress lives up to the challenge by displaying her impressive range, from blushing like a teenager to breaking down in resignation and despair as an adult. Apart from the dreamscape, the only scenes set in the physical reality of the present show us Jonaki’s lover now grown old (played by Burjor Patel) in a search for his dearly beloved throughout the city—one which concludes the film on a rather heartbreaking note.

Image Courtesy: Magic Hour Films

However, Jonaki is neither a surrealistic Jodorowsky ride nor a Bergman film laden with metaphors. Thus it can largely be a fruitless experience trying too hard to intellectually engage a film that was designed to stir up feelings in the subconscious, more than in the conscious plane of mind. Our dreams are usually composed of vast intricate collages of things we have witnessed and emotions we have felt at different points of our lives. We never question the plausibility of what we see while we dream, even if these images may appear incoherent upon waking up and scrutinizing. The end result often appears as a chimerical set of visions that may elude logical thinking or explanation. So why should this old woman’s comatose dreamland be one of concrete meaning and rationality? Why should we necessarily expect to find much rhyme or reason or crystal clarity behind what she sees?

That isn’t to say that the film is completely devoid of symbols and metaphors, but only that looking for “hidden meanings” shouldn’t be one’s primary aim while experiencing the film. Oranges are made a recurring motif throughout, and akin to the way our memories often fixate upon a particular place, object, sound or smell from our childhood, oranges seem to harbor a lot of intimate nostalgia for Jonaki. Not surprising at all, considering the fact that she used to spend a lot of time with her lover in an orchard, peeling away oranges while feeding them to each other. It is also evident from the film that her dad suffered from severe depression, exacerbated by his research not finding any support anywhere. The concept of depression being so hard to grasp and visualize—and being so misunderstood especially during the early 20th century—perhaps explains Jonaki’s subconscious symbolizing it as a bulbous growth on her dad’s forehead, one that keeps growing as his health continues to decline.

A respirator mask on Jonaki’s face is shown to be denying her the taste of food, a sign of the aging woman’s suffocation within this marriage she’s trapped in. Sengupta uses a lot of other recurring motifs as well to paint his picture of Jonaki’s life—such as a piece of music that plays at different critical junctures, a paper origami bird that Jonaki gifts her lover and of course, fireflies. The title of the film Jonaki—apart from being the name of the protagonist—is also the Bengali word for fireflies, which are used throughout the film to signify death as per the popular Japanese folktale about souls of the dead turning into fireflies.

Image Courtesy: Magic Hour Films The exquisitely framed shots that resemble moving paintings are often held long enough to allow us to luxuriate in their beauty, while the sparse use of dialogue ensures that our state of reverie stays unbroken.

DOP Mahendra Shetty, along with Aditya Vikram Sengupta, does an outstanding job of executing such a large number of meticulously-composed static shots, utilizing mostly low-light photography and a bleak color palette. With so much about the film worthy of praise, the sound design may have to settle for being the unsung hero, as it subtly and assuredly weaves its magic through every crackle of fire and drip of water, every rustle of leaves and creak of the stairs that together transport us to this decaying house in a world gone by. In an interview, the 35-year-old director said, “I wanted the viewer to feel the air and get the smell of the place – I wanted them to get the dampness of the locations.” And it is precisely the film’s imaginative soundscape, working seamlessly in conjunction with the visuals, that facilitates such profound immersion.

Image Courtesy: Magic Hour Films

French auteur Robert Bresson once said in an interview, “I’d rather people feel a film before understanding it. I’d rather feelings arise before intellect.” It is a quote that perfectly encapsulates the essence of watching and appreciating everything that Jonaki attempts to do. Because despite inevitably being labeled as ‘arthouse’ and ‘avant-garde’, Jonaki can actually be one of the most accessible cinematic experiences ever conceived—if only we let it. Because it transcends speech and communicates through the universal language of cinema, using dreams and memories (as opposed to using events and circumstance) as building blocks—phenomena that every single human soul has encountered and understands deeply. The experience here, instead of being that of following a set narrative, is primarily that of being inside a shared dream. Inside this kaleidoscopic theatre of dreams, the dying Jonaki’s hopes and fears materialize as rot and decay—as she traverses a lifetime’s worth of forsaken memories—and we are humbly invited along for the ride.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Tumbbad (2018) Review – A Haunting Parable of Greed And Divine Justice

The post Jonaki (2018) ‘KIFF’ Review — A Kaleidoscopic Theatre Of Dreams appeared first on The Projection Room.

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It is that time of the year again. The 24th Kolkata International Film Festival is about to begin and will be screening 171 feature films, 150 short films and documentaries from across 70 countries, spread across 16 venues between November 10 and November 17, 2018. 15 films will be competing in the International Competition: Innovation in Moving Images category, with another 13 in the Competition on Indian Language’s Films, all vying for the prestigious Golden Royal Bengal Tiger trophy.

There’s a lot to be excited about, with a large selection of new films from across the globe being screened alongside restored classics such as The Apu Trilogy (Sayajit Ray, 1955-59), Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966), Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973) etc. There’s also a Bergman retrospective section, in honour of the acclaimed Swedish director’s birth centenary, which will have screenings of The Seventh Seal (1957), Winter Light (1963) among others. The country in focus this year is Australia, in celebration of 100 years of Australian cinema, and a number of contemporary and classic films from the country down under are slated to be screened across the festival. Of special interest is also Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s mammoth 7-hours-plus documentary CzechMate: In Search of Jiri Menzel, an exhaustive history of the Czech New Wave which took the world of cinema by storm in the 1950s.

We have combed through all the various categories in this year’s official selection to present our top 25 most-anticipated new films to watch at the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival. Read on.

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

25. THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Country: Spain, France, Belgium, Portugal

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

Toby, a cynical advertising director finds himself trapped in the outrageous delusions of an old Spanish shoe-maker who believes himself to be Don Quixote. In the course of their comic and increasingly surreal adventures, Toby is forced to confront the tragic repercussions of a film he made in his idealistic youth – a film that changed the hopes and dreams of a small Spanish village forever. Can Toby make amends and regain his humanity? Can Don Quixote survive his madness and imminent death? Or will love conquer all?

Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will go down in film history as one of the most infamous examples of development hell. Gilliam’s repeated unsuccessful attempts to make the film over a span of 29 years finally paid off in March 2017 when it was reported that filming had finally started with Adam Driver, who was confirmed in 2016 and helped secure funding as Grisoni, and Jonathan Pryce as Quixote. On 4 June Gilliam announced that the shooting of the film was complete, 17 years after it originally started.

24. KRABEN RAHU (MANTA RAY)
Directed by: Phuttiphong Aroonpheng
Country: China, France, Thailand

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

Near a coastal village of Thailand, by the sea where thousands of Rohingya refugees have drowned, a local fisherman finds an injured man lying unconscious in the forest. He rescues the stranger, who does not speak a word, offers him his friendship and names him Thongchai. But when the fisherman suddenly disappears at sea, Thongchai slowly begins to take over his friend’s life – his house, his job, and his ex-wife.

Manta Ray, Aroonpheng’s debut feature film, is a continuation of his 2015 short Ferris Wheel, which also deals with migrant workers and the porous border between Thailand and neighbors. The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival 2018 and received the award for the best movie in Orizzonti/ Horizon Prize selection. It also won the Golden Gateway Award in International Competition at the 20th Mumbai Film Festival and is competing for the NETPAC Award at the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival 2018.

23. YOMEDDINE
Directed by: Abu Bakr Shawky
Country: Egypt, Austria, USA

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

A Coptic leper and his orphaned apprentice leave the confines of the leper colony for the first time and embark on a journey across Egypt to search for what is left of their families. The film was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the François Chalais Prize. It was also selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

At the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival, it is competing in the ‘International Competition: Innovation in Moving Images’ category.

22. LORO
Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
Country: Italy, France

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty, 2013) skewers Italian politics in this satirical, profane, and imaginative fictionalization of controversial Italian tycoon and politician Silvio Berlusconi and his inner circle. It is a corrosive and wildly profane comedy, skewering both its subject and modern Italy itself. Loro pulls out all the stops in what is initially a supercharged vision of the country and the flawed forces behind it, namely Berlusconi and his cronies at their point of decline in the late 2000s.

21. GANGBYUN HOTEL (HOTEL BY THE RIVER)
Directed by: Hong Sang-soo
Country: South Korea

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

In his latest creative venture Hotel By The River, renowned Korean director Hong Sang-Soo presents us with a simple and endearing slice-of-life that is stylistically one among his more austere works to date. Primarily set in and around a riverside hotel, it juxtaposes an awkward family meeting between a poet and his sons with that of two women who also happen to be residing there. The minimalist black and white frames are engulfed by an atmosphere of melancholy and quiet desperation that is rather typical across Sang-Soo’s oeuvre of films. Hotel By The River draws up sensitive portraits of its characters, composed out of a series of seemingly-ordinary plot details.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Hotel By The River (2018) ‘TIFF’ Review – A Delicately Told Family Drama 20. DOUBLES VIES (NON-FICTION)
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
Country: France

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

Alain and Léonard, a writer and a publisher, are overwhelmed by the new practices of the publishing world. Deaf to the desires of their wives, they struggle to find their place in a society whose code they can no longer crack. French auteur Olivier Assayas probes the promises and pitfalls of art in the age of digital communication, in this comedy about a Parisian publisher (Guillaume Canet) and his successful-actor wife (Juliette Binoche) adapting to the new media landscape. The film was selected in the main competition section of the 75th Venice International Film Festival.

19. THE THIRD WIFE
Directed by: Ash Mayfair
Country: Vietnam

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

Ash Mayfair’s feminist film The Third Wife is most definitely going to evoke feels of Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden throughout due to how tonally similar the films are. It is the story of 14-year-old Mây (Nguyễn Phương Trà My) who is given away in an arranged marriage and becomes the third wife of a landlord. She realizes that giving birth to a boy means a high status in the household. This becomes a possibility when she is found to be pregnant.

The film deals primarily with the three different wives and how they sustain in the household, along with exploring female sexuality by observing the tragedies of forbidden love in the household and the eternal quest in our minds about settling for the culture and norm or vying for our own personal freedom. At the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival, it is competing in the ‘International Competition: Innovation in Moving Images’ category.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: The Third Wife (2018) ‘TIFF’ Review 18. LA NOCHE DE 12 AÑOS (A TWELVE-YEAR NIGHT)
Directed by: Álvaro Brechner
Country: Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, France

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

Uruguay, 1973. The country is governed by a military dictatorship. One autumn night, Tupamaro prisoners are taken from their prison cells in a secret military operation. The order is precise: “As we can’t kill them, let’s drive them mad”. The three men will remain in solitary confinement for twelve years. Among them is Pepe Mujica – later to become president of Uruguay. The film premiered in Official Selection at the 75th Venice International Film Festival and was selected as the Uruguayan entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

17. SUPA MODO
Directed by: Likarion Wainaina
Country: Kenya, Germany

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata International Film Festival

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In one very heart-wrenching scene of Gabrielle Brady’s Island of the Hungry Ghosts, one of the refugees says “I think Hell is not just fire. Hell is somewhere you see suffering, you see your families suffering, you see your friends suffering. You can’t do anything”. It is this hell that Brady documents for us in this hard-hitting documentary set in Australia, which recently won the Grand Jury Prize at the 20th Mumbai Film Festival, 2018.

Christmas Island, Australia sees one of the largest migrations on Earth, that of millions of crabs. It also houses a dirty secret, a high-security detention facility for people seeking asylum in Australia. Island of the Hungry Ghosts follows Poh Lin Lee, a counselor who provides psychological counseling to these detainees by listening to their stories.

Poh has a very unique way of getting to open up her patients. She gives them a box filled with sand and asks them to use toy figurines and place them in the sand and tell their story. It is during that process that patients open up about their experiences of suffering while reaching and after reaching Australia with her. The stories start to become so disturbing that they affect Poh’s psyche as well.

Although there have been many documentaries and films on refugees in the recent past as the issues are more relevant than ever, Island of the Hungry Ghosts cements its place within that genre. It doesn’t just tell a story of detained refugees but it says it in a way that is artistic, yet very disturbing. The former Prime Minister of Australia,  Kevin Rudd, announced in 2013 that people arriving via boats seeking asylum in Australia won’t be allowed to settle there as refugees. That announcement has had dire consequences for people who face the extremes, coming from as far as the Middle East to the Australian coast only to get detained indefinitely by the government.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts - TRAILER - YouTube

Not only do the detainees have to go through terrifying experiences like their boats drowning or watching other asylum seekers get eaten by deadly sharks on the Australian coast, but they are also often separated from family members (even children) and are kept in inhuman conditions which takes a toll on them both physically and mentally. It is the description of these conditions and experiences that in turn affect Poh. She understands how her job of assisting these people is basically make believe. That in spite of her best efforts, the detainees don’t get any better. They continue to live in the hell and watch themselves and their families suffer. It is not a counselor that they need, but proper government reforms which allow them to live peacefully after running away from the horrifying conditions at home.

As Poh continues to hear the harrowing stories of the detainees one after the other, Brady shows us another aspect of the island, the migrating crabs. Millions of crabs migrate from the jungle to the sea and the government goes out of their way to take care of them. From assigning people to assist the crabs in crossing the roads by building bridges with timber pieces to closing roads when the crabs are migrating in millions, the director hits home her objective by showing us the stark difference in treatment of crabs and humans shelled out by the Australian government.

The film also gives enough time to its original inhibitors who are largely descended from Chinese laborers who were brought to the island to work on phosphate mines. They tell the legend of the “hungry ghosts” residing in the island and the rituals performed to satisfy the ghosts, who they believe are people who didn’t get a proper burial and whose spirits roam the island. This serves as both as a backstory as well as adds an important aesthetic element to the documentary.

Director Gabrielle Brady does a stupendous job in her debut feature which is an extension of her short film titled The Island which came out last year. Brady makes a very gutsy choice here by choosing to not make the documentary information filled and instead deal with the psychological effect of detention in the minds of the detainees and the trauma counselor, Poh. She shows us how the counseling sessions are just a facade to let the detainees think that they have mental health facilities available to them. The cinematography of the film is stunning and very poetic. It focuses on the detainees intensely during their sessions, bringing out their pain to such an extent that the audience can feel it while at the same time wide shots of the “burning ritual” to please the ghosts or the migrating crabs provide an intensely aesthetic look to the film. The music rightfully complements the cinematography and the story whenever needed.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts is a story that needed to be told to bring this system to public scrutiny, to shame it and to hold the people who inflict such pain to fellow humans accountable for the grief, loss and hurt suffered by the thousands only seeking a better life.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts Island of the Hungry Ghosts

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Diamantino (2018) ‘TIFF’ Review – The Most Unique Cinematic Experience Of The Year

The post Island of the Hungry Ghosts (2018) ‘MAMI’ Review – A Horrific Story Of Shame For Australia appeared first on The Projection Room.

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So, thirteen hours of non-stop binge watching and here I am writing down the review/ analysis of the third season of Netflix Marvel’s Daredevil.

“You can build a prison of stone and steel but you merely present the person with a challenge. Any truly determined man will find a way out. But love..love with the perfect prison. Inescapable.”

This season was interesting, though it was devoid of sufficient surprises. The first season of Daredevil still gets my thumbs up if we compare all the seasons of this popular show. Now, even if we compare this season to the other shows of Netflix Marvel, Punisher Season 1 sure takes the cake away. Despite the slow start, things get interesting as the newly resurrected Matt Murdock questions God and His ways. So read on, but buckle your seats down as here comes the much spoilery discussion.

Now, a lot rested on the shoulders of Charlie Cox. And he delivers. There is not a single scene where I feel he has ever disappointed me.

Now as you remember, in my previous Daredevil article, I talked about Matt Murdock’s mysterious mother. And I was right, they do show her in this season. her dynamic with Matt is nice but I felt I needed to see more of young Maggie and her husband Jack. The character is not very impressive but I do hope we get to see more of her in the next season.

Charlie Cox As Matthew Murdock/Daredevil

Now let’s talk about Agent Rahul Nadeem aka Ray. Americans need to understand that not all brown people are Indians. it is actually appalling! The horrible Indian accents on the show wereoffensive to some accent, and the wife clearly messed it up . it irritated me to the point that I wished they did not converse in Hindi at all. Special Agent Rahul Nadeem is a character who fails to evoke my sympathy. He is much like Officer Dinah Madani but lacks her courage and her keenness to do the right thing. Ray is given a quick introduction to his background story that would explain his desperation to work with a criminal like Wilson Fisk. He looks much like the brown version of Ross Geller from Friends and his character misses those much-needed layers.

Jay Ali as Rahul “Ray” Nadeem

Now, I am an Indian and I absolutely hate how Hollywood mixes all our communities up. India is a land of diverse cultures. To my knowledge, Nadeem is a Muslim last name. However, in one scene we see a photograph where Ray and his wife are married according to Hindu rituals. Get it right, Hollywood! Put some effort! Do some research and stop with your shitty Indian accents because it is not funny!

Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson

The first episodes are slow, much like the other Netflix Marvel shows, building up the story and I am not complaining. I have mentioned my fondness for Foggy before and I will say it again. I love his character development. I love how he lifts himself up and supports people around him with his undying optimism. The journey from being an invaluable, lame friend, to the man who works endlessly and selflessly for Matt and their city despite the fact that he is so nervous and scared. He has a bright future but he gives it up, again so as to give Nelson, Murdock and Page another chance.

Marci Stahl, Foggy’s girlfriend is the best partner one could have asked for. though she has very limited scenes, she is supportive, caring and brilliant. A strong woman like her deserves to come back in the next season with a meatier role and a stronger story.

Wilson Bethel as Benjamin Poindexter/Bullseye

The mystery of Karen and her brother’s death is solved as well as we are taken back to her life in Vermont. Although, I do not get the significance of it. A whole episode is committed to making us understand how pathetic Karen’s life has been and how terribly lonely she is. There are times when I clenched my wrists really hard and prayed on the inside that Frank Castle shows up somehow. Talking about Frank Castle reminds me that the plot of the show does get predictable towards the end. The same ‘cops get manipulated by the evil and shrewd villain’ story should now be given a rest. When they did it in Punisher Season 1, it was exhilarating. But now, it is getting a bore and seems lazy and unoriginal.

I hope many of you have watched Daredevil, the movie where Ben Affleck plays the titular role. There are at least two instances where the scenes of the show and the movie felt very similar. one is the scene where Bullseye, I mean the fake daredevil here in the show attacks Matt Murdock and the second scene is the final showdown in both the cases.

Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin

Now, there is a lot of subtle symbolism happening in this season, for sure. The new penthouse of Wilson Fisk ( his code name is Kingpin now, yay!) is decorated by himself. As he is preparing for his lady love to return carries a lot of insight into his new life, his apartment is lovely but overdecorated. It screams of chaos much like Wilson’s life. He thinks he is in control of his apartment and his life but things soon turn into mayhem.

There is this certain hint vulnerability and sincerity Vincent D’Onofrio brings to the character of Fisk which makes him so real and relatable. The show would be nothing without him and Charlie Cox. At times, I cannot help but think Wilson Fisk as a hungry, wailing baby with a lot of tantrums, who would calm down as soon as he would find his mommy. Then, at other times, he is calm and much-poised storehouse of immense masculine energy that would create havoc to get what he desires. His power, the white suit and cello music build up his persona. He is, undoubtedly the most influencing and fearing villain of Marvel at recent times. (Sorry Thanos, you are nowhere near!)

Vanessa has a lot of power over him as she is his only weakness. During the last showdown, his much-loved painting, the Rabbit gets tarnished by his own blood. Now, the colour of the painting is white which is Wilson’s colour signifies calm. Kingpin is a man of patience as he skillfully plans his victory sitting in jail for two long years. However, red is the colour of Daredevil and this tarnishing is a sign of his final win.

Red is an intense colour of emotion and passion. When red and white mix, it signifies the similarities between Fisk and the Daredevil. They are much alike, both fighting for their city. But in the end, it is Daredevil, the righteous who wins this battle. However, has Daredevil won the war? Only time will tell as it is clear that Bullseye will sure return for the second time.

Images Courtesy: Marvel And Netflix

So what do you think of this season? I would love to read what you think, so let us know in the comments below.

The post Netflix Marvel’s Daredevil Season 3 (2018) Review: Exciting But Not Captivating appeared first on The Projection Room.

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Summer Survivors, directed by Marija Kavtaradze was one of the most notable films of 2018. The film was part of the line up in the “Discoveries” section of the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival this year. In an era when under-representation of mental health and lack of awareness is rampant, the film stands as an important drama for the uninitiated and a powerful commentary on the finer moments that are found within the graph of mental illness, as noted in our review. More people are suffering from mental health issues at present than ever before, as shown by research, which makes movies like Summer Survivors crucial due to their honest depiction of the harsh realities of psychological disorders.

We reached out to the director herself to talk a bit more about the film. Ms Kavtaradze, who is a big fan of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman (for obvious reasons ) took some time off her schedule to answer a few questions.

How difficult was it to execute a concept like that of Summer Survivors, incorporating a mostly taboo subject like mental health into a more traditionally happy setting of a road trip?

I think that road trip really helped me to get a brighter view on this subject – I wanted to talk about mental health and the hospitals, but also I felt a need to escape “the usual” setting that you could expect in a film like this.
I felt like actually travelling with my characters when I was writing a script and that was a pure pleasure for me.

There was a pronounced presence of humour in Summer Survivors. Was it always your intention to present this morbid narrative with a comical treatment or did it just happen organically while penning the script?

I think it was a really organic approach. I couldn’t imagine telling this story without a humour, because I believe that always when you are close to death, you laugh at its face.
I realised really strongly that laughter and humour are the only weapons we have when it comes to suffering.

How did you discover your three lead actors Indre, Paulius and Gelmine and what was it like working with them on Summer Survivors?

I knew them all before starting to write and I told them that I want them to be in this film while still working on the script. I knew they can create these characters as they are great and sensitive actors that I really love.
Working with them was a pure pleasure. They work differently in some ways but at the same time, you can feel that they are a team. They are great partners to each other. They would always support and help each other out. I have worked with them before and knew them pretty well before starting to work on Summer Survivors. What I love the most about working with them is that they are not only great in acting, but you can also feel that they are part of the whole team. I do believe that they are the heart of this film.

Cinema, as a whole, historically lacks nuanced and thoughtful representation of mental illnesses. How do you feel regarding this issue and was it a major drive in making Summer Survivors?

It was one of the reasons I wanted to make it. I do often feel when watching films with characters who have a mental illness that it just there to “add” more interesting part of them. I am tired of both – romantic or scary portraits of these characters. I often miss simple people who you can see on screen, who are not defined by their illnesses.
However, there are some great characters and depictions of mental illness in film and television that I love like Frank, The End Of The Tour, Silver Linings Playbook, Infinite Polar Bear and also TV series’ like Taking over the Asylum, BoJack Horseman.

A scene from Summer Survivors (Credits: Heretic Outreach) Tell us about some of your primary influences in cinema who have shaped your creative style in filmmaking.

I grew up with American films mostly, both – good and bad. Anything I could rent from a video store. I always loved watching films and later in my teen years I discovered that there are more in cinema – European films, festivals, independent cinema, and I keep discovering more every day.
I believe that directors I love are my biggest influence, even if I wasn’t thinking about all of them or trying to work in their style and manners while working on this film, I guess that love for them can find their way to show in my films.
Some of my favourite directors are Krzysztof Kieslowski, Hal Hartley, Joachim Trier, Antonio Campos, Sofia Coppola.

Europe houses giants of cinema like France, Britain, Germany, Poland etc. But seldom do we see Lithuanian cinema in the limelight, except for the usual mentions of Šarūnas Bartas and Jonas Mekas. Tell us more about where Lithuanian cinema stands at present and how you see it evolving in the future.

I was happy to hear how at TIFF, great programmer Andrei Tanasescu while presenting our film was mentioning that a year before another Lithuanian debut feature “Miracle”(Egle Vertelyte) was in the same programme.
It’s nice to see how Lithuanian films are starting to travel and Lithuania can be seen in the cinema map more and more. I think it’s a work of many people – directors, producers, Lithuanian Film Centre. It doesn’t seem like a surprise anymore. This year we had Lithuanian films in Locarno, Karlovy Vary, Venice, Toronto, coming up in Tallinn, Leipzig and more, Lithuanian co-productions in San Sebastian and Locarno as well.
I’m really proud that Lithuanian films are interesting for the world and can be seen in great festivals.

Thank you so much for taking some time out of your schedule to talk to us. Can you tell us a bit about any future projects you might be working on that we can look forward to?

I’m working on a few projects as a screenwriter and getting ready to start working on my second script.

Featured Image Credit: Vismante Ruzgaite

RIFF 2018 - Summer Survivors - YouTube

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Los Silencios (2018) ‘TIFF’ Review YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Hotel By The River (2018) ‘TIFF’ Review

Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze Marija Kavtaraze 

The post “When you’re close to death, you laugh at its face” – An Interview with Marija Kavtaradze appeared first on The Projection Room.

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Somewhere around the first quarter of Los Silencios, our protagonist Amparo finds herself inside a fishery looking for a job. Her potential boss tells her about different kinds of fishes. One particular fish, The Catfish, is mentioned to be relatively easy to catch but requires one to be fast in order to spot them. In hindsight, that itself explains the storytelling equipment used in Los Silencios. There are moments leading up to the big reveal, and the clues are placed throughout the film, that happens quite openly and briskly.

Los Silencios, which translates to ‘The Silences’, is director Beatriz Seigners’ sophomore feature which displays dramatically different overtones than her debut, Bollywood Dream. While Bollywood Dream indulged in a more documentary-like sensibilities, dealing with three Brazilian actresses trying their luck in the Indian film industry, Los Silencios takes a more toned down dramatic approach, traversing through the identity of being a poverty-stricken refugee in the crisis-hit South American country of Columbia at the hands of the triumvirate of the conflict.

In the midst of an increasing inclination towards telling stories about refugees, Los Silencios takes us into the previously uncharted territories of narratives and geography Adolfo Savinvino as Fabio (Credits – Pyramide Films)

Taking place on the island of Le Isla de la Fantasia in the muddy backwaters of the Amazon, Los Silencios narrates to us the story of a mother Amparo, her daughter Nuria and her son Fabio settling in the colony of the island, away from the fights in Colombia. Amparo tries to find a job while maintaining schooling for her children and a sense of self-respect in the chaotic world. It examines the hurdles and the hardships that refugees face in daily life, along with the rejection and poverty that accompanies it. Things turn on their head, when Adeo, the family patriarch who was thought to be lost, reappears and integrates himself into the family life once again. Slowly veering off in fantasy, the film deals with the refugees attempting and establishing contact with the dead victims and seeking their advice. Set in the often undiscovered world of refugees in South America, Los Silencios constantly juggles two genres in between the harsh realities of the refugee life and the luminescence of life after death, giving a point of view to the victims who will never walk amongst us again. The dichotomy of the two parallels in the film is something that demands attention.

The sorrow of the characters permeates every frame of the film and carries on through the entirety of its running time. Amparo’s aunt, a seasoned veteran of the village, is one of the more interesting characters of the film, her joy of welcoming her niece into the village is clearly masking the pain and sadness this reunion is causing her. The juxtaposition of the emotions is prevalent throughout the film, not only in Amparo’s aunt but also throughout any moment of joy the characters experience in the film. Dona Albina’s expert performance in the role provides a sense of urgency and necessity in Amparo’s plight, giving a support system to Amparo. Her role of mediator between the members of the village and that of the living and the dead sets the essence of the film

Lacking colour and almost wholly serene, the visual aspect of Los Silencios deserves note Enrique Diaz as Adeo and Marleyda Soto as Ampero (Credits – Pyramide Films)

Set against a poor and rustic background, Los Silencios uses the serenity of its setting to establish a bleak and mournful atmosphere. What works about this technique is that it visually sets the tone for the film and lends cinematic beauty to its subject. Involving the supernatural, the bleakness lends a touch of fantasy and eerieness that bears fruits in the closing moments of the film. Strewn with camera work that highlights human bonding, conflict and the finer unspoken moments of life that exists during times of distress, there is some uncanny quality to the visual tone of the film that foreshadows the pain and anger felt by everyone. The particular scene of the villagers communicating with the dead about their opinion about the ongoing peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC showcases the emotions at its peak. The ending of the film in all its luminescent mourning and liberation of the trapped souls leaves you melancholic with a slight undertone of depression.

Where the film did not match up to itself is its pacing. The first 45 minutes of the 88-minute film sees itself rounding out very very slowly, unsure of how to move on with itself, and progressing with inhibition. A montage of more random happenings envelope the timeframe and seeming moments that do very little to forward the story finds itself consuming a lot of screentime. While the film does emerge victorious in the end, it may display complacency to have the entire film paying off on the heels of the last 25 minutes. Nonetheless, Los Silencios bravely ventures out into unexplored narrative combinations to tell a powerful social tale without walking on the path to preachiness, combining refugees and ghosts to form a sad and heartbreaking tale of those who are caught in a half a century old war of ideologies.

You May Also Like: Hotel By The River (2018) ‘TIFF’ Review – A Delicately Told Family Drama

The post Los Silencios (2018) ‘TIFF’ review – a Supernatural Meditation through the Arms of Tragedy appeared first on The Projection Room.

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In his latest creative venture Hotel By The River, renowned Korean director Hong Sang-Soo presents us with a simple and endearing slice-of-life that is stylistically one among his more austere works to date. Primarily set in and around a riverside hotel, it juxtaposes an awkward family meeting between a poet and his sons with that of two women who also happen to be residing there. The minimalist black and white frames are engulfed by an atmosphere of melancholy and quiet desperation that is rather typical across Sang-Soo’s oeuvre of films.

Hotel By The River draws up sensitive portraits of its characters, composed out of a series of seemingly-ordinary plot details.

It begins with the poet Younghwan (Ki Joobong) inside his messy hotel room. He sits on his bed as he broods and looks outside to the snow-covered landscapes out of his window when he suddenly receives a phone call. It is later revealed that the call was from his two sons Kyung-soo (Kwon Haehyo) and Byung-soo (Yu Junsang) who are coming to visit him and for some reason, the poet doesn’t want them coming up to his room. As they meet and engage in conversation, it is gradually revealed that their father (the poet) left them with their mother when they were children. And due to reasons unexplained, Younghwan has begun to feel that his days on earth are nearing their end and therefore, he feels the need to make up to his sons in order to get closure. Hotel By The River

Ki Joobong as Younghwan with Kim Minhee as Sanghee and Song Seonmi as Yeonju (Credits: FINECUT)

Meanwhile, in the same hotel, a woman named Sanghee (Kim Minhee) invites her friend Yeonju (Song Seonmi) to accompany her as she tries to heal, both literally and figuratively, from her last relationship which ended with her partner betraying her. Yeonju notices the car she used to drive in the parking lot of the hotel, and it intrigues her. They spend most of their time talking or laying down and sometimes walking through the snow outside, where they meet the poet Younghwan. He profusely compliments them on their beauty and they, in turn, are impressed upon discovering he was the famous poet they have heard about. They soon retreat to themselves, unaware that their paths are about to soon cross again in ways unexpected. Hotel By The River

The calm and placid life in the riverside hotel is reflected by the long takes predominantly used by Sang-Soo. The script is never in a hurry but always content to settle down with the characters and observe them minutely. As a result, tiny character details – like the older brother’s jealousy over his sibling’s success, the two women’s contrasting opinions about celebrities – make their presence felt and contribute towards a more realistic and fully-fledged portrayal of these people. Having said that, there’s a distinct lack of nuance in how the characters of Sanghee and Yeonju are written in comparison to the amount of thought given to the male characters. Hotel By The River

Kim Minhee as Sanghee and Song Seonmi as Yeonju (Credits: FINECUT)

The poet Younghwan wants to make sure that he doesn’t leave this world misunderstood, and thus goes to great lengths to explain himself to his sons – starting from how he named them to why he left them and their mother in pursuit of another woman. In the twilight of his life he isn’t bitter despite losing almost everyone, but rather develops a strange kind of frankness about himself. This new outlook manifests oddly at times, like when he keeps complimenting the two women on their beauty, over and over again till it feels almost creepy. It is only much later, in retrospect, that we recognize his attempts to express himself to the fullest and not leave anything unsaid, in light of his newfound premonition of death. Hotel By The River

The camera often makes its presence felt in Hotel By The River and not always in a good way, with sudden quick zooms here and there feeling obtrusive to the film’s otherwise serene, meditative mood. A few directorial choices (like characters thinking out loud and the use of a nearly-episodic narrative structure) robs the film of a certain degree of subtlety that could’ve otherwise really enhanced the experience. As a result, the final direction towards which the film is headed can feel predictable, even if that doesn’t really diminish the potency of the ending that much. Hotel By The River

Kim Minhee as Sanghee (Credits: FINECUT)

Sang-Soo always maintains a constant distance from the characters, rarely ever using close-ups, despite Hotel By The River being of a heavily emotional nature. Plot details slowly trickle out, more through conversational dialogue rather than exposition, helping keep the film continually engaging despite its leisurely pace. The young Sanghee, moving on from her breakup and restarting life, is presented in contrast to the aging Younghwan – getting ready to bid farewell, as he ties up loose ends while writing the concluding chapter of his life. And it results in a cathartic and thought-provoking drama that, despite its minor shortcomings, has an endearing yet sobering effect as the credits roll away.

You May Also Like: Teen Aur Aadha (2018): ‘PIFF’ Review – Of Stories Untold And Secrets Unguarded

The post Hotel By The River (2018) ‘TIFF’ Review – A Delicately Told Family Drama appeared first on The Projection Room.

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