MAYA ROSE FERNANDES
Up until about a decade ago, when I lived in London, I used to be such a movie-lover that I’d easily watch upto three films on a weekend, with my film-buddy, after which we’d discuss the films over dinner or drinks.
Commercial, independent or vintage, it didn’t matter, we were cinephiles who loved a good story.
Then I moved to Goa, and access to good movies became limited and restricted. The films worth watching, in the one decent available cinema locally, were here one day, gone the next.
Going to the movie theatre became more of a chore than a pleasure, and when the pandemic struck, I gave in to Netflix and Prime as my entertainment providers of choice. The experience wasn’t the same, but I wasn’t averse to the difference.
As I mentioned in my column last Sunday, I finally made it to my first IFFI, this year. The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) is Goa’s oldest mela, where the who’s who of film descends upon the capital city for nine days of screenings and industry hobnobbing.
As I also mentioned, I’d run out of excuses to not actually see a movie, and fully intended to catch at least two. I managed to see four and I’m one of the lucky few who can say that they were very happy with their rather random choices.
Apart from just skimming the bare film summaries provided on the user-friendly booking app, I found myself choosing movies with timings I could make, and based on pure availability.
I was only free towards the end of the festival, so I’m thrilled that I even got to see the four that I did, let alone that they were audio-visual feasts.
First, I should say that I now totally understand why fans, who come year after year from out of Goa just to watch films at IFFI, go on and on about the quality of global cinematic offerings.
Secondly, they stress how much they love the uncensored versions and find them refreshing.
IFFI shows global cinema, national and regional films, but also Goan films.
With over 270 feature movies, short films, documentaries and animation films being screened across 11 screens in INOX Panjim and INOX Porvorim, Maquinez Palace and Ashok Cinema, plus the public open beach days, there’s a veritable feast for the eyes available in Goa over an intense nine-day period from 9 am to late at night.
Friends I bumped into at the festival were watching an average of three movies a day, though one friend said she was off her usual game as she was disappointed with the flops she’d been seeing that far.
I, on the other hand, went with low expectations and ended up seeing none of the more feted movies, mostly because tickets appeared to be fully booked (but that’s a different conversation in itself!).
Instead, I saw four very different world movies that I absolutely loved, because they all had that one thing that appealed to the writer in me: excellent story-telling.
Palimpsest, a Finnish film, was about two elderly people who undergo a medical trial where they become younger, while still retaining the memories of their entire lives. It was a fascinating take on our pursuit for the Fountain of Youth and the urge to escape death.
But in this case, through stem cell research gone successful, with a plot twist I won’t ruin for you.
Almost Entirely a Slight Disaster, a darkly humourous Turkish film, was directed, acted and edited so well that it had the audience laughing at the misery of the movie’s four downcast protagonists from start to finish.
The nature of middle-class ennui and striving resonated with the fully-booked theatre of delegates.
Party of Fools, a French period movie, set in 1894 Paris in a mental institution for women, was a beautifully shot piece with an ensemble cast, about the nature of women’s insanity in a time when men controlled everything.
And last, but not least, I watched the Italian movie, L’Anima In Pace, about a tough 25-year-old living in poverty, who juggles a couple of jobs during the pandemic in Rome, with the goal of regaining custody of her twin brothers from foster care.
The story of struggle amidst hardship, and under very difficult circumstances, was vivid and translated across languages and cultures to captivate its audience, including me.
I needed this reminder that great cinema isn’t only about the cast, craft and technique, the combination of visuals, sound and music, the dedication to cinematography, lighting and set design that creates on-screen magic.
It is also about the transformative experience of the story itself, and its ability to connect with a deeply human quality or experience within us, that makes it truly magical.
Now that I’ve had this reminder, I can’t wait for next year to experience this kind of theatre-related magic again.