Top ten films from Bengaluru International Film Festival 2017

The 9th edition of Bengaluru International Film Festival honoured the year’s celebrated world cinema, as cinephiles from across the country came together for a moment to celebrate art and humanity.

By Nikhil Sreekandan

© BIFFES Official Facebook page
© BIFFES Official Facebook page

Nothing like a break from everyday life to spend an entire week devouring the year’s lauded works on celluloid. In the one week of screening, the 9th edition of the Bengaluru International film Festival celebrated over 230 films from all over the world.

If there was a recurring theme, it was the commonality of human-interest issues and people’s desire to connect. Despite the varying approaches to film texture, storytelling, and music score, here are 10 movies from the festival that all celebrate the complexity  and intriguing qualities of humans.

1. AFTER THE STORM (UMI YORI MO MADA FUKAKU)

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda

Japan/2016/Japanese/117 min.

In this beautiful family drama from the Japanese master, a once-promising novelist and now divorced deadbeat father struggles to win back the love of his estranged wife and son.  For what probably is a cliched and tried plotline, Kore-eda treats it with tender hands as he casts light on the tiny details that bring out the most essential family moments. Mixed in with beautiful shots of the unremarkable urban landscape of Kiyose, this innately humorous tale of a family, which at the same time a melancholic ode to the past, is a simple yet moving lesson on life.

2. THE STUDENT ([M]UCHENIK)

Director – Kirill Serebrennikov

Estonia/2016/Estonian|Russian/118 min.

Adapted from a German play, Martyr, The Student is a Russian battle of morals as an aggressively Christianized high-schooler goes up against his liberal Jewish biology teacher.  The screenplay is a barrage of spiritual quotes, which the sulky teen obsessively quotes from the Christian doctrines to his mother and teachers, as inarguable truths. In this engaging roller-coaster of a ride, Serebrennikov has clearly taken a side of the argument, but as the credits roll with the Slovenian metal band, Laibach blasting ‘God is God’, the end result proves absorbing and captivating.

3. PAULINA (LA PATOTA)

Director – Santiago Mitre

Argentina/2015/Spanish/103 min.

Driven by the powerful performance of Dolores Fonzi, Paulina is the story of a sexually assaulted woman whose response to rape leaves her family, friends and even the justice system baffled.  A socially conscious teacher’s strong commitment to her ideals weighed against her experience of rape, Mitre’s second feature film earns admiration for taking on a subject rarely explored.

4. THE SALESMAN (FORUSHANDE)

Director – Asghar Farhadi

Iran|France/2016/Persian/125 min.

Another feather in the distinguished Iranian filmmaker’s hat,  The Salesman tells a simple tale of revenge but one which willfully explores one’s morals and life’s cruel ability to force choices that eventually decide the path their future lives take. Lead from the front by Shahab Hosseini, a role which won him the best actor prize at Cannes and equally supported by Taraneh Alidoosti who plays his wife, Asghar Farhadi crafts yet another emotionally complex masterpiece.

5. WHEN THE WOODS BLOOM (KAADU POOKUNNA NERAM)

Director – Dr Bijukumar Damodaran

India/2016/Malayalam/105 min.

Awarded a Special Jury Mention award at BIFFES, Dr Biju’s When the Woods Bloom is an on-screen discourse of the ongoing battle between the state and the local tribes who are ignorantly deemed as Maoists. In this almost satirical take on the whole situation, the story follows a day’s events as a policeman and a suspected Maoist woman get lost in the woods. Far from being another repeated work by siding with the oppressed and blaming the armed forces, the film strives to place an argument from both ends, showcasing the police as a victim of ignorance, suspicion and to be utterly blinded by popular discourse.

6. YELLOW FLOWERS ON THE GREEN GRASS (TÔI THAY HOA VÀNG TRÊN CO XANH)

Director – Victor Vu

Vietnam/2015/Vietnamese/103 min.

Based on the bestselling and award-winning novel I See Yellow Flowers Upon The Green Grass by Nguyen Nhat Anh, this multi-million dollar production helmed by Victor Vu, one of Vietnam’s most prolific and successful filmmakers, is another proponent among the new wave of cinema emanating from Vietnam. Set in the 1980s in a poor rural village in central Vietnam, the film tells an innocent tale of childhood and nostalgia, following the lives of two brothers and their little friends. Literally, a ticket back to childhood, this warm nostalgic hug from Vietnam with its soulful folk music and green landscapes will remind you of the beauty of this world and the wondrous journey of life.

7. I, DANIEL BLAKE

Director – Ken Loach

UK/2016/English/100 min.

Another well-told chapter in the director’s brilliant filmography, the year’s Palme d’Or winner is Ken Loach’s quiet fury against the injustices suffered by the lower classes. One of the most important films of recent times, I, Daniel Blake, depicts how once you are put in the benefits system, it could ever so easily strip you of off your humanity and reduce you to mere numbers on application forms.  Stand out performances from Dave Johns and Hayley Squires in particular, lifts Loach’s almost documentary-sque treatment of this miserable plot and leaves one with a raw anger that remains long after leaving the theatre.

8. TRAIN DRIVER’S DIARY (DNEVNIK MASINOVODJE)

Director – Milos Radovic

Serbia/2016/Serbian/85 min.

For a story based on the morbid statistic that every railroad engineer unintentionally kills 15 to 20 people, this dark comedy from Serbia with it’s unique and fascinating premise and a slew of rich characters makes it a joyful ride. With an opening scene that involves the brutal manslaughter of six gypsies in a van, the movie is far from a comedy, yet is consistently whimsical through and through. This brutal and hilarious portrayal of murder and suicides by Milos Radovic is Serbia’s official entry for the Academy Awards.

9. THE NET (GEUMUL)

Director – Ki-duk Kim

South Korea/2016/Korean/114  min.

Director Kim Ki-duk boldly confronts the clash of nationalist ideologies in The Net, as he tells the story of a North Korean fisherman stranded on South Korean shores. Particularly different from his former works, this talky-spy thriller from the bad boy of Korean cinema, is a straight-forward and honest tale of a man caught between nations and his struggle to return to his former life and family. Blinded nationalism is carefully weighed up against the value of human lives, in this specific setting of particular interest, that of the divided Koreas.

10. HEARTSTONE (HJARTASTEINN)

Director – Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

Iceland/2016/Icelandic/129 min.

In the closing film of the festival and the debut feature from Iceland, two preteen boys experience a summer of emotional and sexual struggle as their close friendship is put to the test. Richly atmospheric, set in the majestic coastal cliffs of Iceland, this beautiful coming of age tale has enough serenity and sensitivity to soften stonier hearts among cinephiles.  Well-acted and visually stunning, this is a thoughtful and lyrical take on the awkward years of teenage.

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