16th Mumbai Film Festival – Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten)

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war?” ~Eve Merriam

Some like to consider that Cinema is a tool to experience something as it is at the convenience of your own. Cinema takes us to places we wouldn’t visit otherwise, make us familiar with the people living over there and develops a bond with that culture. Zwischen Welten introduced me to a German Soldier named Jesper (Ronald Zehrfeld) and an Afghani interpreter Tarik (Mohsin Ahmady). And above all, the character that is more important than both of them – war.

Jesper voluntarily signs up to lead a mission in Afghanistan keeping aside the fact that he lost his brother in the same country. To overcome the language barrier, Jesper takes help of a young and inexperienced interpreter – Tarik. Jesper struggles to win the trust of the locals and also the Afghani militia. At the same time Tarik and his younger sister who is studying engineering receive constant threats for helping the troops.

Trailer here.

The film makes a fairly positive representation of the German soldiers contrary to that by the local and international public. The film celebrates the gradual alliance between Jesper and Tarik hinting the possibility of peaceful coexistence. The film approaches its climax as the protagonist has to make a moral decision.

Having watched quite a few films based on war in the recent days, I feel this film by actor turned director Feo Aladag is an excellent representation of the humanitarian perspective to the world.

(Spoilers ahead)


A few remarkable notes from the film:

As the poster suggests, that crossing has a very important significance in the film. This similar frame appears two times in the film. The first time just before Tarik visits Jesper before the commencement of his job as an interpreter and the second time just before Tarik gets shot for working for the “wrong side”.

Jesper and his troops find a cow stuck in barbed wire at night. Jesper commands to shoot that cow and put him out of his misery. The locals do not accept this incident as a sign of mercy towards the animal. They refuse to accept the interference of a foreign force. As a sign of fear of being ruled by someone else. They refuse to accept the foreign ideologies and morals.

Tarik’s sister wants to attend college. She wants to learn and be an engineer, shaping the future of Afghanistan. But her ambition is crushed under the economic and political instability of the country.


The performance by both, Ronald Zehrfeld and Mohsin Ahmady is beyond doubt one of the elements of the film that actually grips the audience. Their chemistry on screen deserves a special mention. The bond that connects these two characters is the theme of the film and for me it worked wonderfully.

We have seen War through a woman’s perspective before in the Academy Award winning film The Hurt Locker. And I feel it is important to note the way the focus of the film is not just on the explosions but their aftermath. The repercussions of war that spare nobody. It critiques the tendency of humans to force ideologies on the masses. It asks you a question whether power and control achieve anything good towards the end.

The film Inbetween Worlds is a strong, affecting drama. It is a depiction of the current situation in Afghanistan with a mild touch of tragedy. The film portrays a country which enjoyed a vibrant culture once but now is completely torn apart by war. It is sad to see a low rating on IMDb for this one. But if by any chance you get to see it, this one is an important one.



16th Mumbai Film Festival – Lessons in Dissent

“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”
Albert Einstein

There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind is just like you and me. Whatever comes by our way, thrown by our superiors; we accept it. We are at the receiving end. And then there are people who consider it as their responsibility to be the change.

Lessons in dissent is a documentary by Director Matthew Torne and it was screened in the Real Reel section at the festival. The film is a portrayal of the fight of a few Hong Kongers against political oppression. The film mainly revolves around the group named Scholarism. It is a group of secondary school students formed to serve as an alliance against Moral & National Education.

Opening Sequence here

Trailer here

To be very frank, I did not intend to watch this documentary. I wanted to attend another film and I had to enter this screening as I couldn’t catch my desired show. After checking out the opening sequence I was quite amazed that the film is a non fiction film. It was quite unbelievable to see a 15 year old Joshua Wong addressing an audience of 1,00,000 Hong Kongers with such an aggression. When I was 15, my goals, my dreams were completely different. Witnessing the passion of these school going kids was totally exhilarating.

The film, is a completely political film with a one sided message. Judging from the film itself it appears that the school kids and their activism is a representation of all good against evil. My lack of knowledge regarding the subject prevents me from making any judgement out of it but I have a belief that every coin has two sides.

What I really admire about the film is, to convey the message in an appropriate manner, the maker has taken full liberty of using lots of text emphasizing subject matter and directing the audience. Also, the whole documentary is divided into chapters (lessons) justifying the fact that the film is against compulsory national education and the government interference in it.

The film lacks those stunning shots which would give it any acknowledgement as a brilliantly shot film. But it is surely a very well organized and a daring film altogether. This is taking run and gun to the next level. I could only imagine the kind of problems a film maker with western background would face while shooting such a sensitive subject in a country like China.

One has to admire this format of storytelling; a real hard hitting documentary. It acquainted me with so many social issues in Hong Kong and in China as well. It introduced me to the culture gave me a glimpse of the power of the youth. And at no point it made an attempt to preach any particular thought. Apart from a really important subject, the film also is important in the documentary films genre.

Such a #Brilliant Children’s Book- Shark Tanked by David Noah Kittle-Pals

Books, Food and Me!!

The blurb reads

When eleven year old Robert Bailey arrived at his family cottage near Lake Michigan, he expected a normal summer vacation: sand castles, thunderstorms, and mosquitoes. After discovering a treasure chest in an online video game, Robert and his best friend, George Ellison, go on a scuba diving adventure into the Great Lake. On their way to the water, they wander into an old red lighthouse. After an accident breaks a hole into the floor, they discover an underground labyrinth of tunnels, harboring a dark secret. Robert and George must figure out how to save the Lake from the tortured mind of an evil genius.

shark tanked

I’ve read a lot of books till now. And I’ve loved stories and storytelling since I was a kid. And this book, has very clearly blown my socks off.

When you read a book, you expect the writer to be a certain age…

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#2 Cloud Atlas by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, and though a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud and soul is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul willll be tomorrow?

~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

If there are any films that you hate upon the first viewing, understand upon the next and start loving by the third one Cloud Atlas by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer is certainly one of those films. It is based on the 2004 novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. The film is a Sextet of sorts with six stories which take place between the years 1849 and (roughly) 2346.

The official synopsis describes it as “an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” The actors in the film appear in different roles in different stories. Which hints that each one is a vessel to its individual soul traveling from one lifetime to the other.

The ensemble cast is utilised in astonishingly well in an assortment of characters. The intricacy of the makeup is simply mind boggling. It is difficult to tell whether you are looking at Tom Hanks or Hugh Grant. And after a time you are trying to get a grasp of the story to such an extent that you don’t even bother. The makeup gives us a strong reason to believe that the characters are reincarnated souls.

Some actors have taken up the roles in which you have never seen them before. And probably you never will except in this film. There is an awesome article about the 5 weird characters in the film which you should probably read.

What sometimes bothers me about the film is that the structure is completely messed up. Sometimes, non-linear storytelling gives you the leverage to give reasons to a person’s actions in an even more effective manner. Over here, it simply complicated things a lot. If you are not really making an effort to watch the film, you won’t really end up leaving the theaters. The book on the other hand is linear. I haven’t read the book but for me, that structure would’ve worked a lot better.

There have been reviews ranging from calling it a total disaster and crowning it as the best film of 2012. All of these from eminent personalities and film geniuses. The film is listed on various Best Film and Worst Film lists. Ultimately it is upon you and the kind of narrative that appeals the best to your senses. Some may call it ahead of its time. Some may even consider that it is utter nonsense to waste your time on. And making a film so ambitious is an achievement in itself!


Tissue by Stuart Wahlin

If you think about all those amazing things you can find on the internet when you’re not really looking for anything in particular you will be surprised. Stuart Wahlin‘s short film Tissue, made for Colchester Film Festival is on of those rare pieces which have a lot more to offer than what appears on the surface.

The competition provides you with a title to the film which can be interpreted in any way; one line of dialogue and an action. There is a limit to the duration and the film is supposed to be completed in just 60 hours. For this entry the line given was “I’ve seen what happens to people like you” and the action was  someone dropping a torch.

I think a short film can be deciphered in many ways. And more than often, the interpretation of a viewer can be totally different from that of the maker. When you attempt to tell a story in such a small time, every element in the frame does matter. I think the film has a subliminal message that the night is darkest before the dawn. Not given in a grand sense of things but in a very personal, semi-autobiographical manner. And that’s why, the use of torch holds utmost significance.

I really appreciate the tracking shot which kind of depicts the solitude the writer has created for himself. I write myself and I know many who do it as a profession and I think this one shot of less than 2 seconds tells us a lot about the character.

Also, the main character played by North Roberts has an interesting habit of keeping a pen in his uppermost buttonhole. And that comes handy towards the end. The attention to such details can really make the film believable.

When asked to speak more about the backstory of the film the director mentioned that he wasn’t too satisfied when he was given the title of the film. He wasn’t sure if the film could be completed without any certainty of cast and crew. Yet towards the end, things turned out positively and the film was produced.

I am not a fan of a lot of constrains when making a film. Film making is a tough job and it has its challenges anyway. But making a film in 60 hours including writing, shooting and editing it is a commendable job. Some of the director’s work is available over here including the award winning web series, Hand of Glory.

As a fellow film maker, I believe it is important to appreciate the genuine work of others. If you like his work, go like the Facebook page and do spread the word!

Robin Williams: 1951-2014

Kind of old, but very well put 🙂

Oh! That Film Blog

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 15.04.08This morning, I awoke to a three word text from a friend that shook the sleep from my eyes and put a knot in my stomach, “RIP Robin Williams”. In the hour that followed I watched the news channel piece together what has to be the saddest Hollywood death in recent memory. Contemplating the apparent suicide of Robin Williams is a most bitter pill to swallow. To think that a man who brought such happiness and laughter to millions of film fans around the world could not find it in himself to experience the same is heartbreaking. We have seen time and time again that the line between joy and sorrow in the minds of both special and ordinary people can be oh so thin, and for this particularly special person it seems as though the thin line finally became transparent.

I was never interested in Spiderman or Superman as…

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#1 The Kite Runner – Marc Forster

“It always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.”
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is the story of Amir Qadiri (Khalid Abdalla) hounded by his past. He lives with his wife Soraya (Atossa Leoni) in California. He receives a call from an old friend of his father’s, Rahim Khan (Shaun Toub) staying in Pakistan. And what happens that day, during that conversation changes the course of a whole lifetime!

After this small glimpse of the present, we embark on a journey to the Afghanistan of 1978. A place with open skies and blooming freedom. Far away from screams and gunfire. Where kites soar in broad daylight without any fear. Over here a young Amir (played by Zekeria Ebrahimi) and his servant’s son and his best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) is enjoying his life full of his short stories, books, movies and kites.

(Tiny spoilers ahead)

Every year a prestigious kite tournament takes place in Kabul. Amir and Hassan take part in the tournament as a team. Amir wishes to impress his father (Homayoun Ershadi) who was a champion in his own youth, by winning it. And they do! Amir celebrates while Hassan runs down the kite for him. Amir comes down looking for Hassan and finds out that Hassan is surrounded by Assef who is a bully and his friends in an alley. They try to bargain with Hassan to obtain the kite but Hassan denies. Assef then rapes Hassan to “teach him a lesson”. A petrified Amir watches this as it happens but chooses to hide rather than help his friend.

Driven by guilt Amir finally succeeds to make Hassan and his father Ali leave their house. And in a few days Amir and his father leave the country as the Soviet Union militarily intervenes. Both of them come to America and struggle to survive over there. All this while Amir takes it as his fault that Hassan is left behind in the terror that encompasses Afghanistan.

In the present, Amir comes to Pakistan to meet his father’s friend upon receiving his call. Where he realises that Hassan and his wife were killed by the Taliban. Hassan is survived by his son Sohrab who is still amidst the unstable Afghanistan. Amir takes it as his responsibility to find the boy and take him away to America.

The film crosses the obstacle of complex flashbacks and flash forwards. And it carries off the non linear structure with an ease. It demonstrates the power of this simple formula of a narrative: prosperity – tragedy – loss – redemption. The film doesn’t enjoy a well defined three-act-structure. There are smaller acts and each given the right weight. That is why whether it is Amir’s marriage or his father’s death; each important incident swiftly touches your heart.

The film is adapted from the bestseller by Khaled Hosseini of the same name. One of the most important part of adapting any story from one format to the other, especially when adapting for screen; it is important to edit. In this scenario the edit process begins first and then you write and rewrite until you have something that is true to its original self and new at the same time. As I read the book just before I watched the film, I knew the portions which made me deviate just a little from the story and David Benioff as the screenplay writer of the film has done a fabulous job in “editing”.

The film succeeds with its honest storytelling. There are no big stars in the film. Nothing to attract today’s audience, nothing to make them stick to their seats for two hours except a pure story. The actors with an actual Afghan background were enjoyable and absolutely convincing on screen. In fact they added a tinge of Afghanistan even in the scenes based in America. On the contrary in India we have a North Indian Actress playing a legendary boxer Mary Kom with no resemblance what-so-ever just on the basis of her popularity.

It is surprising that the film did not receive the recognition it deserved. Although praised by many experts from the industry, the film could only get a few nominations at the Golden Globe Awards and The Academy Awards. Regardless of how that happened, for me it is one of the stories that linger in your mind long after you are finished reading/ watching them. The story enlightens us about the horrific situation in Afghanistan and it carries a simple message within simultaneously. And as I based my short film which is to be screened at the 16th Mumbai Film Festival on a boy of a similar age, the film was a great teacher!

#11 Poetry – Humble

When I look at those tiny ants,
helplessly crawling
towards the sweets I dropped on earth
I bring my toe right on top of them,
I pity their humble existence
as a small step would result in a disaster for them.

I wonder, if this is what it feels
to be God
and right then,
a deep voice echoes in my ears
‘wake up, you have a test today’
and I come back to my humble existence.

The ultimate power is in the right hands!

#6 Learning From The Experts – Enemy by Denis Villeneuve

“There is no lack of spiders’ webs in the world, from some you escape, in others you die.”

~ José Saramago’s The Double

It is all about a history teacher named Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers his perfectly identical copy Anthony Claire. This one sentence should be enough to explain the overview of the film. However the film deals with much deeper subjects as it proceeds.

The film opens with a rather disturbing scene in a sex club where the protagonist and some other men watch prostitutes masturbating. Another prostitute takes off her robe and presents a spider in a plate. We cut away as she is about to crush the spider. We start off with a voice-mail from the protagonist’s mother. She thanks him for showing her his new apartment and that she is worried about him and his life.

Adam Bell is a history teacher who is perfectly occupied in his daily routine and is evidently fed up with it. He lives in a small apartment with only a bed and a table for a laptop. His shares his nights with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). But it appears that apart from the sex there is hardly any relationship left. Whereas the other person who resembles Adam has worked as a junior artist in a couple of local films. Anthony Claire is married to Helen (Sarah Gadon) and she is pregnant.

The duplicates decide to meet up in a motel room. Anthony is surprised to discover the similarities but Adam freaks out. Anthony follows Adam and discovers his life. Later on he confronts Adam and questions him if he has slept with Anthony’s wife. Adam does not answer. Anthony proposes that they can only be even if he gets to take Adam’s girlfriend on a romantic date. By this point, the lives of these individuals are entangled beyond any repair.

(Heavy spoilers ahead)

This is one of the films which needs a lot of thinking after you are done watching it. You need to watch it at least twice to discover what it means. Or else it seems simply silly than suspenseful. The director Denis Villeneuve has explained in a few interviews that it is “a documentary of his subconscious.” These days, I am more inclined towards thinking that in every psychological mystery it is either a multiple personality disorder or the protagonist is a schizophrenic. And most of the times I am right.

In the film, both the characters are essentially the same person. This person tried acting as a profession some time in the past but now he is a history teacher. He is married to Helen and he is an adulterer. He has been caught by his wife and she fears that he will cheat on her again. The film is the protagonist’s subconscious struggle to be faithful to his wife. Which one of these two personalities is real? Well actually both of them are. Our protagonist is a mixture of both and he is struggling to fight his Anthony bit and not cheat on his wife again.

Why I like the film in particular is because of the hidden symbols and metaphors. And of course it gives us one of the most shocking endings. The colour scheme of the film is a striking tint of yellow and green. The director explained that the whole look and the smog came from the idea of pressure. Smog signifies pollution. Pollution of the atmosphere and pollution of the mind.

The use of spiders in the film signifies patterns. Spiders are considered as an ancient archetype, ‘The Weaver’. Females strive for order and males strive for chaos. A female spider kills the male spider she mates with. That explains the shot where the prostitute crushes the spider in the beginning. By attending the sex club, the protagonist crushes the order, the dictatorship.

The biggest mystery of the film, just like the director’s earlier film, Prisoners is the name of the film. Some claim that women are the enemies but the protagonist seem to be at ease with women. Then who is the enemy? The protagonist himself, his actions and his habits are his enemies.

Enemy is really a movie entirely about discomfort. A person pursuing his best attempt to free himself from the pattern. From his unreasonable tendency to cheat on his wife. To accept her not as a dictator but as a partner. To set aside his fear of commitment and be a loyal husband. All this put forward in an unusual and surreal manner. As I said earlier, it would take a sane person two or maybe three viewings to somewhat decipher the “chaos” what the film produces. The question is, do the people care?

There is a minority who speaks positively about the film. I believe the film is kind of ahead of its time. And one of the best films I watched this year.

Q: Why Do We Call It Making Love?

It’s because love is not just a feeling of affection
It’s just like a roller coaster ride
With all its twists and turns and ups and downs
And two people coming together have to cross the ocean of fire
Together… By holding their hands, all the time
And one should be aware that there would be some moments
When a thought will strike him as lightning
‘Why the hell am I with you? …
I should be just alone…’
But he should know that they are better together
Whenever one thinks of quitting
He must take a pause… And rewind a little… And ask…
Why did we come so far?
Aren’t those memories worth memorizing?
Then all these thoughts will start disappearing
Why do we call it making love?
Because love is not just a feeling of affection
It’s a task… Of making impossible, possible!
Holding hands in the worst times
And MAKING the best of it!