China went through profound changes in the 1990s, embracing consumerism but also remaining moored to older Party ideals. This animated film by Jian Liu, set in an art college, follows a group of talented young slackers whose preoccupations, concerns and dreams reveal the shifting currents of that time. The voice cast features, among others, the veteran Chinese director Jia Zhangke.
Sarvnik Kaur’s documentary continued India’s strong showing in recent years at the Sundance Film Festival in the US—it won World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Vérité in January. The film looks at the friendship and opposing world views of Rakesh, a traditional Koli fisherman, and Ganesh, a deep-sea fisher. It’s an intimate, charged film, wonderfully shot by Ashok Meena, clear-eyed about the tough realities of the fishing market. “We knew there was a crisis on the sea,” Kaur told Lounge in an interview in February. “But I wanted to connect my story to the fact that everything that happens on the sea also happens in their personal lives.”
American film-maker Frederick Wiseman is perhaps the most revered documentarian working today. He has made films on libraries and psychiatric wards, long, carefully observed affairs that seem to reveal the soul of the place. His latest subject is La Maison Troisgros, a French restaurant which has held three Michelin stars for over five decades. A runtime of 240 minutes makes this one of the festival’s endurance challenges but Wiseman has rarely left the viewer’s patience unrewarded.
This is likely to be one of the strangest films at this year’s festival. Rainer Sarnet’s The Invisible Fight is the story of a wild rocker who wants to become a monk and learn kung fu. Imagine a surreal martial arts comedy with theology and blasts of Black Sabbath set in the Soviet Union of the 1970s.
Follower explores the issue of radicalisation along linguistic lines. Raghu is an online activist with a Marathi political party, in a region with a Marathi-Kannada divide, who becomes a dangerous internet troll. Harshad Nalawade’s film premiered at the 2023 International Film Festival of Rotterdam, as part of an India-focused section, “The Shape of Things to Come?”.
Because of the paucity of film festivals and arthouse repertories in the country, Mumbai Film Festival attendees tend to cram as much as they can into a week of viewing. But watching three, four films in a day can be heavy, and sometimes a small, charming comedy can come as a relief. Ariane Louis-Seize’s film could be that title for many this time—a French-language film about a vampire family and the complications that ensue when the teen daughter falls in love with a human.
Indian film-maker Sreemoyee Singh spent years exploring the lives of women in Tehran. She speaks to artists and directors, notably Jafar Panahi, and attempts to understand how Iranian women negotiate the restrictions placed on them. The documentary captures a pivotal time in the women’s movement in the country.
In Justine Triet’s film, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, Sandra (played by the formidable Sandra Hüller) is a German writer suspected of killing her husband. The only witness is the couple’s blind 11-year-old son.
This 2001 film by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, playing in the Restored Classics section, is a sensorial feast. In neon-soaked Taipei, hostess Vicky (Shu Qi) is caught between her wayward boyfriend and a suave gangster.
Anand Patwardhan is one of the most celebrated non-fiction directors in the world today. His latest might be the most personal: a portrait of his parents and the way their lives dovetailed with India’s freedom struggle.