SAIFF Day 2, Thursday

AADUM KOOTHU, by director T V Chandran started the first full day of SAIFF . This is the Malayalam director’s first Tamil film. At the core, the film has an interesting premise — a director is making a movie about an injustice that occurred in his village when he was a child. A landlord tortured and tonsured a lower-class woman publicly since she refused his advances. As the director is making the film, the actual landlord’s son shows up with his goondas and beats up the crew and stops production of the film. Ok, we have something to work with. Then it gets melodramatic – the actress of the film is so depressed that she actually tonsured her head for the scene and the production was stopped that she hangs herself. Isn’t that a little extreme, dear? This then leads to a crazy sequence of events where the director becomes an activist and then reemerges to avenge her suicide by killing the landlord.

But there’s the best part — that was only the second half of the film!! The director found a very, very odd need to encase this story in some fantastical wrapping that took the entire first half of the film. Manimekhala is a college student. Her cousin (and later fiancé) buys her a bangle/bracelet from the fair that has some black and white film embedded in it (yes, a bangle with a film inside it). As Mani is doing random tasks like washing clothes, reading or getting married, the bangle shoots beams at her, projecting out a film. The film is about two gypsy performers and how a landlord lusts after the woman and tries to forcibly have his way with her. Everyone is convinced that Mani has lost her marbles until her fiancé discovers that the film she is seeing was actually made. Aha – yes… that film that we talked about in part two! Mani and her fiancé trudge off to discover what happened and then we get to part two. Anyway, the film concludes with Mani finishing the unfinished film as a documentary and shaving her head. Err… okay then. Enough said.

ANURANAN: THE RESONANCE didn’t resonate at all. In fact, it was cancelled. Yikes. Snafu number two. Apparently (yes, the famous apparently re-emerges), the filmmakers had trouble getting censor board approval and had to pull the film. So, instead they showed Omkara. Good film, but having seeing it already, I passed.

PLAYING THE NEWS by director Jigar Mehta was an excellent documentary short. Jigar seems to have made this in his journalism program at UC Berkeley and it was a well-constructed doc that asked some very interesting questions. It covers a game called Kuma War that is an online massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that simulates the latest wars that are happening. Three weeks after the battle for Fallujah in Iraq, gamers were fighting the same missions in the game. Kuma War scans all military updates and gets feeds from all the news organizations to design the most realistic locations and scenarios. As soon as an attack is publicly described, Kuma builds it into the game. They even have a news channel within the game to update the players on the situation and their missions. The short raised the question of what’s considered news and what’s considered a game and where the line is drawn. It also highlighted how civilians safely ensconced in their homes played games that are so similar to reality, but so far from reality at the same time. By juxtaposing a real killing of an Iraqi militant with a game killing, he brought home the fact that despite Kuma’s best efforts, the reality is far, far worse. Very thought provoking.

MY CULTURAL DIVIDE by director Faisal Lutchmedial was a first person account of his visit to Bangladesh. He explores the economics of global trade and visits sweatshops with appalling conditions on his journey of discovery. He weaves the story in with personal accounts and a good dose of humor to make it a compelling and touching effort.

The last film of the night was QUARTERLIFE CRISIS. Since it is so late, I’ll post the review tomorrow.