Thursday, November 05, 2009

3RD I 2009—Michael Hawley Previews the Line-up

How fortunate can a website be to have two of the Bay Area's best film writers offer previews of what I consider to be this weekend's winner of—as Michael Hawley aptly terms it—November's "filmfest smackdown." Film festivalism has never been more athletic or competitive!! Lay your bets, cinephiles!

The 3rd i San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival returns for its seventh edition November 5 to 8, with two nights apiece at the Roxie and Castro Theaters. Sure to be a highlight is Saturday's Castro revival of legendary producer/star Guru Dutt's 1960 Bollywood classic Full Moon (Chaudhvin Ka Chand). Set amongst the Muslim aristocracy of early 20th century Lucknow, this lushly photographed film follows a love triangle beset with comic misunderstanding, mistaken identity and ultimate tragedy. Any disappointment I had over the film's digital, rather the 35mm presentation, has been tempered with the announcement that Dutt's son Aran will be on hand to introduce the screening.

That night, 3rd i's Saturday at the Castro concludes with recent Bollywood hit My Heart Goes Hooray! (Kil Bole Hadippa!). Although this girls-just-wanna-play-cricket pic doesn't star Shahrukh Khan, I'm not exactly dreading 148 minutes of watching Shahid Kapoor (Rani Mukherjee in Drag King mode might be a different story).

And anyone with a taste for the wildly different won't want to miss Friday's late-night Roxie screening of
Quick Gun Murugun. This ambitious masala mish-mash pits a gaily-garbed vegetarian caballero against a criminal carnivore—while spoofing vintage Bollywood, Spaghetti Westerns and a hundred other things. Expect a lot of cartoonish violence, special FX and in-jokes infinitum (plus a color-palate influenced by Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger).

There are several non-Bollywood narrative features in the line-up. Of the two I previewed I'm most enthusiastic about Bombay Summer. This moody, hang-loose Indian indie chronicles the evolving friendship between three Mumbai 20-somethings—Geeta, a graphic design company exec who still lives at home, Jaider, her coddled poet boyfriend, and Madan, a drug deliveryman and photographer who comes between them. In the dark, uneven British anti-family comedy Mad, Sad & Bad, three damaged adult siblings stumble through the weeks leading up to the death of their widowed, alcoholic mother. A 17-year-old Kashmiri boy's struggle to escape his fate is at the center of Bay Area director Tariq Tapa's neo-realist feature debut Zero Bridge. The film was just recently nominated for a Gotham Award for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. The directors for all three of these films are expected to attend.

3rd i can be counted on to present some terrific documentaries, and this year is no exception. While I haven't previewed it, closing night film Yes Madam, Sir appears to be one not to miss. The film is about Kiran Bedi, India's first elite policewoman, and Variety's Richard Kuipers calls it "an enthralling chronicle of her brilliant, tempestuous career" in a full-on rave review. Both Kiran Bedi and the film's director, Megan Doneman, are scheduled to attend.

Of the three docs I've seen, I most strongly recommend Opening Night film
Supermen of Malegaon, a charming story of cinema-obsessed textile mill workers making their own inspired version of Superman. Anyone who was blown away by Manufactured Landscapes' unearthly images of Bangladesh's "ship-breaking" industry will want to check out Iron Eaters, a sobering, multi-angled look at a back-breaking business that feeds an estimated three million Bangladeshis. The contradictory disconnect between "Kama Sutra India" and "no public kissing India" is the fascinating subject of Kaushik Mukherjee's brave documentary Love in India. Other docs in the fest include Warrior Boyz (South Asian gangs in Vancouver), Searching for Sandeep (Australian lesbian finds romance on-line) and Children of the Pyre (kids living off Varanasi's cremation industry).

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