20 Must See Films at JIO MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, 2015.

The Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image (MAMI) is one of the few bodies in our country that’s trying to and mostly succeeding in its attempt to bring renowned films from all over the globe at one single spot. The film students, genuine movie lovers and anyone who has ever loved the art of motion pictures religiously awaits The Mumbai Film Festival every year. 

Following the tradition, the 17th annual Jio Mami is here. In addition to having a great deal of fascinating world cinema, the Indian section is full of promising films. A new section called ‘After Dark’ has been introduced to the creepy, bloody thirsty movie watcher who are mostly left out. 

We here at High On Films have decided to cover this years Film Festival. So to kick things off, here is a list of 20 films that are a must see at this year’s gala.

20. Umrika

Director: Prashant Nair.
Country: India | Language: Hindi | Duration: 98 Mins.
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Tony Revolori & Prateik.

A small village in India is invigorated when one of their own travels to America (aka, UMRIKA) and details his adventures through letters home, sparking community debate and inspiring hope. But when the letters mysteriously stop coming, his younger brother Rama (Suraj Sharma) sets out on a journey to find him. With the help of his best friend Lalu (Tony Revolori), Rama retraces his brother’s path to find himself charting one of his own. Set in the mid-1980s, UMRIKA is a funny and meaningful story of the lengths taken to realize one’s dreams. Starring the very promising Suraj Sharma (Life of Pie)  & Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Umrika is their first Hindi Film.

19. Ludo

Directors:  Qaushiq Mukherjee, Nikon.
Country: India | Language: Bengali | Duration: 90 Mins.
Stars: Kamalika Banerjee, Joyraj Bhattacharya & Soumendra Bhattacharya.

Four desperate teenagers. A night of sexy mayhem. The big city. Or so the plan goes, until a series of misadventures later, Babai, Pele, Ria and Payal end up in a locked shopping mall in the dead of the night. Alone at last… until an old couple appears out of nowhere with a piece of folded leather and a glass container with two dice made of bone. A game. Simple, but deadly. They call it Ludo. A game defiled by a young couple centuries ago. An unbreakable curse, a living board, eons of bloodbath spanning the subcontinent. A game that has reached this city. Not just monsters, but prisoners of fate. Immortal lovers existing under a curse that will not die. They live within the game. Blood must spill. Bone must shatter. Beware the rattle of the Ludo dice.Directed by Qaushiq Mukherjee (known as ‘Q’), Ludo is playing in Mumbai Film Festival’s newly introduced section called After Dark. It will be  interesting to see Q’s new film, after the critically acclaimed and controversial film Gandu.

18. Tangerine

Director: Sean Baker.
Country: USA | Language: English | Duration: 88 Min.
Stars: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor & Karren Karagulian.

A working girl tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart. Sean Baker’s Tangerine made wave earlier this year for its Technological freedom. Tangerine is made entirely on an iPhone and has cast members who have no prior acting experience.

17. Dheepan

Director: Jacques Audiard.
Country: France | Language: Tamil, French & English | Duration: 109 Mins.
Stars: Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan & Claudine Vinasithamby.

To escape the civil war in Sri Lanka, a former soldier, a young woman and a little girl pose as a family. They end up settling in a housing project outside Paris. They barely know one another, but try to build a life together – as the threat of escalating gang violence looms over their lives. Dheepan is a typically unpredictable career movie by Jacques Audiard whose previous films include the melodramatic romance ‘Rust & Bone’ and the critically acclaimed crime drama ‘A Prophet.’ Audiard’s Dheepan won the Palme d’Or at The Cannes earlier this year.

16.  An Illusion of my Mind

Directors: Heer Ganjawala, Karma Takapa  & Abhishek Varma.
Country: India | Language: Chhattisgarhi | Duration: 78 min.
Stars: Aparna, Ramesh Pani & Yuvraj Singh Azad.

 An author’s struggle between what he wants to write and what others might want to read culminates into a surrealist novel. The trailer and the synopsis can give any surreal movie watcher a hard-on. Coming from a person who is a native of Chhattisgarh, Mor Mann Ke Bharam looks promising.

15. Schneider vs. Bax.

Director: Alex van Warmerdam.
Country: Netherlands. | Language: Dutch. | Duration: 96 Mins.
Stars: Tom Dewispelaere, Alex van Warmerdam & Maria Kraakman.

On his birthday, a hitman reluctantly takes on the easy task of killing a writer, only to find the job a lot more difficult than expected. Schneider vs. Bax is directed by Alex van Warmerdam whose previous film Borgman was a terrifying mix of unsettling comical imagery and brilliant, imaginative & original thrills. Schneider vs. Bax seems like another interesting turn by the director where he will be mixing absurd dark humor with captivating thrills.

14. Peddlers

Director: Vasan Bala.
Country: India | Language: Hindi | Duration: 116 Mins.
Stars: Mukesh Chhabra, Zachary Coffin, Kriti Malhotra, Nimrat Kaur & Gulshan Devaiah.

The film is set in Mumbai, and revolves around 20-year-old destitute boys who get trapped in the drug trade and a young cop, who tracks them. It has been 2 years since the trailer of Peddlers was out. Though the response at 2012 Cannes Film Festival was generally muted, Vasan Bala’s direction was  slated as promising.

13. Sleeping Giant

Director: Andrew Cividino.
Country: Canada | Language: English | Duration: 89 Mins.
Stars: Jackson Martin, Nick Serino & Reece Moffett.

Teenager Adam is spending his summer vacation with his parents on rugged Lake Superior. His dull routine is shattered when he befriends Riley and Nate, smart aleck cousins who pass their ample free time with debauchery and reckless cliff jumping. The revelation of a hurtful secret triggers Adam to set in motion a series of irreversible events that test the bonds of friendship and change the boys forever. While a lot of this looks like The Kings of Summer, In this feature debut, director Andrew Cividino ushers us into a visually and emotionally rich universe, drawing complex, naturalistic performances from his young actors. The film deals extensively with themes of death, masculinity, as well as adolescent perceptions of love, friendship and sexuality. Sleeping Giant portrays a summer filled with euphoric moments as well as difficult times. The relationship between the boys is never predictable, yet always feels authentic. There will never again be a summer so intensely felt, so alive, so valuable to the forming of their characters.

12. Haramkhor

Director: Shlok Sharma.
Country: India | Language: Hindi | Duration: 90 Mins.
Stars: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shweta Tripathi, Trimala Adhikari & Irfan Khan.

In a small Gujarati town, a school teacher has more than an academic interest in one of his female students. Haraamkhor (English: The Wretched) was shot in just 16 days and it  is a love story that revolves around a delicate relationship between a school teacher in a small Gujarati town and his teenage female student. First Premiered in 15th annual New York Indian Film Festival  and Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA),  Nawazuddin Siddiqui received the Best Actor award for the film at the New York Indian Film Festival.

11. Aferim

Director : Radu Jude
Country : Romania | Language : Romanian
Stars : Teodor Corban, Mihai Comănoiu,Cuzin Toma

Synopsis: After a slave escapes from his master’s estate, a local policeman is hired to find him, resulting in a journey full of adventures. Film has already created a ripple with Radu Jude winning the Silver Bear for Best Director at 65th Berlin International Film Festival. It was selected as the Romanian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards

10. Risk of Acid Rain

Director: Behtash Sanaeeha.
Country: Iran | Language: Farsi.
Stars: Shams Langeroodi, Maryam Moghaddam & Pooriya Rahimi Sam.

Sixty-year-old Manouchehr has never married and lives in a provincial town. After 30 years working at the local cigarette factory, he has just retired, but from force of habit still turns up for work every now and then. Following the death of his mother, manouchehr sets off to Tehran with the aim of tracking down an old childhood friend. Ehtemal-e Baran-e Asidi promises to be a coming-of-old-age tale with genuinely heartwarming performance and low-key storytelling.

9. The Forbidden Room

Directors: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson.
Country: Canada | Language: English | Duration: 130 Mins.
Stars: Roy Dupuis, Clara Furey & Louis Negin.

A never-before-seen woodsman mysteriously appears aboard a submarine that’s been trapped deep under water for months with an unstable cargo. As the terrified crew make their way through the corridors of the doomed vessel, they find themselves on a voyage into the origins of their darkest fears. You have to see the trailer of The Forbidden Room to believe it.  It seem like Guy Maddin’s wild, delirious tribute to classic cinema. The bizarre, surrealistic atmosphere just adds to the anticipation.

8. Taxi

Director: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran | Language: Persian | Duration: 82 Mins.
Stars: Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi is banned from making movies by the Iranian government, he poses as a taxi driver and makes a movie about social challenges in Iran. When you are a filmmaker and you are not allowed to direct movies any more, you have to retrain. So why not become a taxi driver? Or better, why not pretend you are a taxi driver and make a film despite everything? This is what Jafar Panahi has done.

7. Victoria

Director: Sebastian Schipper.
Country: Germany | Language: German, English & Spanish | Duration: 138 Mins.
Stars: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau & Franz Rogowski.

While on holiday in Berlin, a young woman finds her flirtation with a local guy turn potentially deadly as their night out with his friends reveals its secret: the four men owe someone a dangerous favor that requires repaying that evening. Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria was shot in one single take. Two hours and eighteen minutes. No cuts. No CGI. No cheap tricks. No expensive ones, either. Just one shot. First screened in the 65th Berlin International Film Festival, Victoria won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for Cinematography.

6. Arabian Nights [Vol. I, II and III]

Director: Miguel Gomes.
Country: Portugal | Language: Portuguese, English, French, German & Mandarin | Duration: 381 Mins.
Stars: Miguel Gomes, Carloto Cotta & Crista Alfaiate.

Set in Portugal, Arabian Nights is a modern day adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights.Arabian Nights (As Mil e uma Noites) is a three part film which was screened in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Part two of Miguel Gomez’s epic, Arabian Nights: Volume 2 – The Desolate One, was selected as the Portuguese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.

5. Mistress America

Director: Noah Baumbach.
Country: USA | Language: English | Duration: 84 Mins.
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke & Seth Barrish.

In MISTRESS AMERICA, Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) – a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town – she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes. Mistress America which is co-written by Greta Gerwig along with Noah Baumbach seems like a follow-up to the lovely Frances Ha. Critics across the globe have praised her performance as the adventurous Brooke. It will be interesting to see the supreme energy of Greta Gerwig tangled along with the dark wit of Baumbach.

4. Youth

Director: Paolo Sorrentino.
Country: Italy | Language: English , Spanish & Swiss German | Duration: 118 Mins.
Stars: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano & Jane Fonda.

YOUTH is about two longtime friends vacationing in the Swiss Alps. Oscar winning actor Michael Caine plays Fred, an acclaimed composer and conductor, who brings along his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), a renowned filmmaker. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. The two men reflect on their past, each finding that some of the most important experiences can come later in life.Directed by Paolo Sorrentino who won an Oscar for his film The Great Beauty last year has brought together  veteran actors Michael Caine & Harvey Keitel in a story that trickles down nostalgia lane.

3. Room

Director: Lenny Abrahamson.
Country: Ireland, Canada | Language: English | Duration: 118 Mins.
Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay & Sean Bridgers.

Both highly suspenseful and deeply emotional, ROOM is a unique and touching exploration of the boundless love between a mother and her child. After 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery: the outside world. As he experiences all the joy, excitement, and fear that this new adventure brings, he holds tight to the one thing that matters most of all–his special bond with his loving and devoted Ma. After last year’s fantastically weird musical-comedy Frank, Abrahamson goes deep into the dramatic territory with his new film Room. While Brie Larson was terribly overlooked in the year 2012 for her fabulous performance in the brilliant indie drama Short Term 12, her performance in Room has already flagged her for an Oscar nod.

2. Anomalisa

Directors: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman.
Country: USA | Language: English | Duration: 90 Mins.
Stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis, Tom Noonan.

Michael Stone, an author of books on the subject of customer service, struggles with his inability to connect to people. One night, while on a routine business trip, he meets a stranger who changes his world view. Charlie Kaufman is a genius. Every single movie freak out there will surely bow down to his visionary eye and perspective. If there’s any competition for Pixar’s Inside Out at the Oscars this year, it will definitely be this. First premiered at Telluride Film Festival, Anomalisa won the Grand Jury Prize at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival.

1. The Lobster

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos.
Country: Greece | Language: English | Duration: 118 Mins.
Stars: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux & John C. Reilly.

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. The Lobster is  Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s (Known for Dogtooth) first English language Film. Supposedly a sci-fi black comedy, The Lobster won the Jury Prize at 2015 Cannes Film Festival.