Quo Vadis, Aida?
With Bosnia volatile again, and the memories of conflict from the '90s still not buried, Quo Vadis, Aida? is a timely film. It’s set in Srebrenica, in the run-up to the horrific massacre of Bosniaks by Serb forces and military groups there. The film tracks the efforts of Aida (Jasna Đuričić), a translator with the UN, to keep her husband and two sons out of the reach of the Serbs, who are at the gates of the compound. Jasmila Žbanić directs unobtrusively, building tension and letting the actions of the aggressors, the victims and the peacekeepers speak for themselves.
An unusual horror film from Austrian director Jessica Hausner. Alice (Emily Beecham) is a scientist who’s created a new kind of flower in the lab, which requires some care but makes its owners happy. She smuggles one home for her son, but soon starts noticing unusual behaviour in people exposed to its pollen. Beecham won Best Actress at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival for her role; Ben Wishaw (Q in the recent James Bond movies) costars.
Eleven-year-old Celia studies in a convent school in Spain. When a new classmate enters the picture, Celia’s world expands and she becomes hungry for new experiences. Pilar Palomero’s debut feature swept Spain’s Goya Awards, winning Best Film, Best New Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography for Daniela Cajías.
A girl who’s grown up in an orphanage visits her mother, only to find out she’s married and doesn’t want people to know she’s her daughter. Hungarian pop star Kati Kovács starred in this 1968 film by Márta Mészáros that’s informed by the rebel currents of the various European New Waves then taking place. The film—along with others by the director—can also be watched on MUBI, which is running a retrospective titled “Independent Women: The Pioneering Cinema of Márta Mészáros”.
Shubhashish Bhutiani's film (released as Mukti Bhavan here) is about a retirement home in Varanasi for those nearing the end of their lives. We had written in our review: “Mukti Bhawan is quieter than most films, indie or otherwise (Tajdar Junaid’s pleasant, if rather typically Hindie, score is used sparingly). Even with death approaching, life must go on, and Bhutiani seems fascinated by the sort of mundane, everyday stuff that directors usually skip. For what seems like a 30-minute stretch, all we’re doing is watching Daya and Rajiv bicker and negotiate daily tasks like cooking for themselves (throughout the film, food is used a bridge between characters). There are moments when I wished there was more to quicken the pulse, but the careful advancement of plot is made palatable by some wonderful character sketches, like the gruff hotel manager (Anil K. Rastogi, very droll) and the widow Vimla (Navnindra Behl), who’s been staying there for 18 years, and whom Daya strikes up a friendship with.”
The European Union Film Festival is on till 30 November. Visit www.euffindia.com for details.