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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 9.Jul.22
London Indian Film Festival shorts...
held in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds 23.Jun-7.Jul.22
Rich served on the jury for the Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition | Page 2 of 2
dir-scr Hardik Sadhwani, Ritviq Joshi
with Tanmay Vekaria, Gayatri Soham, Dharmesh Patel, Parthiv Shetty, Tapan Bhatt
SATYAJIT RAY PRIZE
Sharply well shot, edited and performed, this clever short comedy-drama explores a feeling everyone can identify with, namely that nagging question of how much life would be better if we robbed a bank or won the lottery. Filmmakers Sadhwani and Joshi assemble this with skill, building complex characters in moments, then sending them into hilarious conversations and situations, plus a bit of Bollywood sparkle along the way, blending colourful fantasy with earthy realism.
It opens as Rameshwar (Vekaria) returns home after a long day driving his rickshaw. Sighing heavily as he gets into bed, he tells his wife Urmila (Soham) that he has an idea to rob the fancy home of a passenger who has more stuff than he needs. Urmila is initially shocked, but begins to warm to the idea. Then their two sons (Patel and Shetty) jump into the conversation, planning the heist and thinking about the things they can buy with the cash. As they wind themselves up, Rameshwar consults a policeman friend (Bhatt) who tells him to go for it.
The excellent cast makes each person burst with personality, so the way they interact is very funny, especially as they wind each other up. When they dress in black, because that's how heists are done in movies, and head off into the night, the film explodes into a neon-lit musical extravaganza. Of course, things have to come back to earth, and the way the filmmakers orchestrate this is pointed and inventive. It's a wonderful depiction of that feeling that everyone else is making money while I'm falling behind. And it beautifully undercuts this desire for things with something deeper.
dir-scr Maya Bastian
with Anne Saverimuthu, Kalpanee Gunawardana, Anya Ajeya Sahakari, Ajeya Madhav Sahakari
Dreamy and evocative, this lushly photographed short drama centres on a feeling that's remarkably powerful. Filmmaker Bastian is provocatively exploring a complex issue by taking a surreal look at a big issue. It's all a bit elusive, forcing the viewer to work to get the point. But the idea is so intriguing that it sticks with us, and it has something important to say about the random ways the world works.
As it opens, the films crosscuts between the 20-something Trina (Saverimuthu) as she gyrates in a crowded nightclub then runs through a thick forest to a sparkling sea. Eventually it emerges that she's an Indian-Canadian aid worker who has travelled back to India for work. And in her drunken, ecstatic state, she is tapping into an alternate reality in which she never moved to Canada and instead was kidnapped as a young girl and forced to fight as a Tamil Tiger.
The idea here is that we don't choose our reality. Bastian's open-handed filmmaking approach touches on some very heavy issues along the way while remaining loose and nicely underplayed. So even if the surreal premise is heightened and a bit pushy, there's a powerful punch in the way it contrasts this privileged young woman with her tough survivalist alter-ego. And it's haunting when they face off, and the fighter asks, "Where is your fear?"
dir-scr Arati Kadav
with Ali Fazal, Jaini Ramesh Panchal, Rio
The Astronaut and His Parrot
Hugely inventive, this enjoyable little comedy-drama plays out like a low-budget Gravity, cleverly using simple special effects to depict an involving moment in outer space. And it looks great, strikingly well shot, with colourful sets and costumes, plus remarkably expressive title characters. Writer-director Kadav shows that you don't need Hollywood-size funding to create a resonant story.
It opens as the young Afreen (Panchal) is looking at a snowglobe depicting her with her astronaut father Ali (Fazal). She's waiting for him to come home from a moon mission, and she doesn't know that he's in trouble. Indeed, there he is spinning untethered, calling for help with less than 10 minutes of oxygen left. But on Earth, his radio messages are only being heard by a parrot called Manohar, who can merely repeat words back to him. Perhaps he can send a message to his daughter.
The film features wonderful flights of fancy, with magic and glitter helping us see into Ali's heart as he imagines his life with Afreen. It's a vivid central performance, as Fazal conveys Ali's sweet and heartbreaking message. Of course it gets rather sentimental, although this is undercut by the homemade filmmaking and witty touches in virtually every shot. It's also notable that the filmmaker is able to make Manohar into a properly vivid character as well.
dir Anuka Sethi
scr Saniya Jaffer, Anuka Sethi
with Anuka Sethi
Hide & Seek
Depicting a young woman's genuine struggle for identity, this short takes on an issue that's rarely depicted on-screen and digs deep beneath the surface. The film is swirling with terrific ideas that come from the experiences of actor-filmmaker Sethi, which gives it a strongly personal kick. But while it embraces the complexity, the script never digs beneath the surface to reveal something properly revelatory.
In a collage of home movies, a man is seen talking to his two adorable daughters as he films them dancing and playing. In a voiceover monolog, Sethi recalls playing hide and seek as a child, and she still feels like she's hiding. She speaks about growing up as an Indian in New York, not wanting to wear traditional clothes. And now she's trying to weave together her two identities and make more sense of who she is.
New footage woven between the vintage video clips shows Sethi trying to recapture her childhood feelings, exploring her heritage through food, fabrics, books and Bollywood movies. But she feels like an alien who lost her younger self and needs to put both parts back together. All of this is poetically assembled, with some strong observations. But it remains a little superficial, reminiscing about that November breeze rather than unpicking hints that perhaps her sexuality could be fuelling this disconnect. She may still be hiding, but she definitely has something to say.
dir Devashish Makhija
scr Devashish Makhija, Bhumika Dube, Ipshita Chakraborty Singh
with Bhumika Dube, Ipshita Chakraborty Singh, Annapurna Soni, Bishna Chouhan
There's a blast of fresh energy infusing this raucously girly short comedy, which remains snappy and sassy as it takes on some big cultural issues. Director Makhija takes a refreshingly irreverent approach that feels loose and rather scrappy, skilfully subverting male-dominated society. And the characters have such terrific personality that we feel like we're taking a rather naughty day out with them.
At a gaming arcade, Santo (Singh) is rather dubious when Teja (Dube) gets on a bucking-bull ride. They're waiting for their married friend Tamanna (Soni) to turn up, but she arrives in a burka, which makes taking selfies a little complicated. Santo and Teja insist on talking about sex, which makes Tamanna nervous, especially when they decide that she needs to learn how to "self boom". This is a bit much for her, and they end up taking her to a traditional healer.
Playing out with rapid-pace dialog and a delightful openness about female sexuality, this is the kind of short film that encourages the audience to simply hold on for the ride. And where it goes is endearingly anarchic, even as it is dealing with issues that are fundamental to humanity. Which is precisely the point. This is a superb assault on how terrified people are to speak about sex, how elemental sex is to being a human, and how relationships hold us together in sometimes messy ways. The film also has an absolutely hilarious punchline.
dir-scr Amar Wala
prd Vinay Virmani, Rinku Ghei
with Nav Bhatia, Arvinder Bhatia, Tia Bhatia, Russell Peters, Isiah Thomas, Vince Carter, Nick Nurse, Rinku Ghei
21/Canada CBC 52m
LONDON INDIAN FILM FEST
Superfan: The Nav Bhatia Story
This lively and thoroughly likeable doc traces the life of an extraordinary basketball fan, an internationally known figure who has never missed a Toronto Raptors game since the team was formed in 1995. More than that, Nav Bhatia has a fascinating story to tell as a Sikh immigrant to Canada who faced serious prejudice throughout his life but refused to let it change who he is. And he's such an optimistic, matter-of-fact figure that he can't help but be inspiring.
Born in New Delhi, Nav Bhatia moved to North America with his wife Arvinder during India's horrific 1984 Sikh riots. An engineer by training, no one would hire him because of his religion and ethnicity, but he found work selling cars, quickly setting records that still stand today. He now owns several dealerships, and has become a star as the Raptors' number one fan, iconic with his turban and beard, as well as his relentlessly positive attitude. They even gave him a championship ring when they won the title in 2019, the first fan to ever get one. And he was among the first superfans inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Nav is infectiously joyful, always finding a positive spin on potentially problematic situations, to the point where he's happy to meet with internet trolls who attack him. The doc is relatively straightforward, never quite digging under the surface, which isn't surprising since his Superfan Foundation was involved in making it. But it is packed with terrific details, lots of fabulous clips and excellent to-camera interviews with NBA officials and stars. But it's the chance to get up close with Nav himself and see the world through his eyes that makes this definitely worth seeing. His attitude could change the world.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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