From October 17 to 24, Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) organised its annual Mumbai Film Festival. The event saw over 190 movies from 53 countries in 49 languages, including 13 world premieres and over 50 debuts. These numbers are a testament to the fact that MAMI remains the country’s biggest film festival, and is on its path to being in the road map of prestigious film festivals, accompanying Cannes, Berlinale, Sundance, and Busan.
What remains the most critical and celebrated aspect of MAMI’s success is its ability to successfully get both — most acclaimed of world cinema and the most underrated films from independent Indian directors.
The biggies included the opening film, Muthoon; Martin Scorsese’s much-awaited The Irishman; Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story; Sundance winner — The Souvenir; Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory; and Robert Eggers’ black and white thriller, The Lighthouse. But it was a Kislay’s Aise Hi (Just Like That), and Archana Phadke’s About Love or a Deepti Gupta’s Shut Up, Sona that prompts and promotes MAMI’s individuality.
For a week, seasoned delegates all over the city sat in front of their phone screens at exactly 8.00 am — the official start time for when the next day’s screenings can be reserved. 8:02 though was the unofficial end time. Seats all over Mumbai got reserved in mere seconds, with films screened in the two theatres in Andheri the first to be completely pre-booked. But, this isn’t it if you couldn’t get into your Pain and Glory or Bacurau. Walk-in lines stretched across halls and sidewalks (especially if you are at the magnificent Regal), with cinephiles coming in as early as four hours before the film’s scheduled time.
A common societal vibe surrounded the hundreds you could spot walk wearing ID cards — a symbol that they belong to the same system of booking-waiting-watching-discussing (in no specific order) as you. Somewhat like every cinephile made a secret pledge, one which enhances their ability to accept subjective opinion and at the same time develop an understanding of companionship in this great time of promoting art. This vibe — as much as it belonged to its people — belonged to the word Bombay and everything it carries with it as well. One couldn’t expect this level of organisation and hunger for good cinema anywhere else in the country. There can be a few close calls, but the sheer numbers prove my point.
The closing ceremony saw Prateek Vats and his team take home multiple prizes — including the Golden Gateway for the India Gold category — for their film Eeb Allay Ooo! — a social commentary based in Lutyen’s Delhi. Gitanjali Rao’s Bombay Rose and Kislay’s Aise Hi were also honoured. Saand Ki Aankh closed the festival. Concluding, Festival Director Anupama Chopra and Artistic Director Smriti Kiran announced the dates for next year’s edition.