Busan from my blue sofa

Tuning in to virtual film festivals allows more time for movies

It has been a funny old year, though you may have gathered that by now. By now, I should have been at the Film Bazaar and IFFI, Goa, after concluding the Mumbai, Busan and Kolkata film festivals. Ideally, I would be looking ahead to the Singapore and Macau festivals, with the delicious possibility of the International Film Festival of Kerala lurking. However, an invisible virus put paid to those and any other travel plans.

Being at home — on my blue sofa — during Busan had a curious fringe benefit. In the Korean city, between all the back-to-back journalistic endeavours and the frantic film parties, actually watching movies is usually a bonus. This year, from home, I managed to watch a lot more. The Indian films at the fest will be well covered in these pages eventually, and so too world cinema. The most affecting film that I watched was perhaps Bing Zhou’s humane Hong Kong Moments, which documents the huge protests against draconian new rules from Beijing. The film follows people from different walks of life — a young cop, a protester, a pro-democracy politician, a taxi driver, a paramedic and a teahouse owner — and uses them to paint a portrait of the situation.

The most electric film of the festival, and 2020’s answer to Fatih Akin’s Head-On (2004), is Ismael El Iraki’s Zanka Contact, a giddy, Casablanca-set tale that details the tempestuous relationship between a has-been rocker and a street-smart diva that pops with colour, energy and pizazz. The energy is also high in Philippe Lacote’s The Night of the Kings, where a young man arrives in prison in the middle of an Ivory Coast jungle and madness ensues. The film is Ivory Coast’s entry to the Oscars.

A still from The Predators  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

After the class conflicts so masterfully explored in Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, two films carry the theme forward in different ways. Javier Fuentes-León’s Peru/Columbia production, The Best Families, opens in the middle of a massive celebration that is rocked to its core when an old secret is revealed. The film is a delicious new entry into the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ genre that Parasite re-popularised. Also concerned with class is Pietro Castellitto’s beautifully-constructed The Predators that follows two different family groups, one ultra-affluent, and the other not so. The screenplay continually wrong foots you to the point where you don’t know who to root for any more, then realise that rooting for one or the other is so 2019, and sit back and enjoy being emotionally toyed with. The film played earlier at Venice, where it won best screenplay.

As I write this, I’m pleased to see that several vaccines have been tested and are on the verge of being mass-produced. Hopefully bursting with one of these I will set off on my physical festival journeys to the far corners of the Earth soon. Until then, I will navigate the world of cinema from my trusty blue sofa.

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