18 Must-See Films at IFFI Goa, 2021
The 52nd edition of IFFI (International Film Festival of India) will open in Goa on 20th November 2021 in hybrid mode. The festival will be a showcase of more than 300 films from across the world. The fest will honor legendary filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Istevan Szabo with the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award.
IFFI 2021 will also pay homages to prominent Kannada film actors Puneet Rajkumar, Bertrand Tavernier, Christopher Plummer, Jean-Claude Carriere, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. The homage will see special screenings of the film A Sunday in the Country (1984), All the Money in the World (2017), At Eternity’s Gate (2018), and Breathless (1960).
Other than that, the Special Tribute section will feature a dedication to James Bond – Sir Sean Connery with screenings of 5 of his films including 3 bond outings. The section will see screenings of From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Untouchables (1987), You Only Live Twice (1967), The Hunt For Red October (1990).
The festival’s retrospective section will be dedicated to Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky and Hungarian filmmaker, BélaTarr. With 9 films (5 Konchalovsky and 4 Tarr films) gracing us on the big screen.
Other than that, here are 20 movies from IFFI 2021 Goa that excites me the most:
1. Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn
Director: Radu Jade | Language: Romanian | Runtime: 106 Minutes
Emi, a schoolteacher, finds her reputation under threat after a personal sex tape is uploaded onto the internet. Forced to meet the parents demanding her dismissal, Emi refuses to surrender. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is a film in three loosely connected parts: a walk in the city of Bucharest, then a playful essay on obscenities, all culminating, in the third part, in an incendiary comic confrontation
In our review for the Golden Bear winner at this year’s Berlinale we said “If it’s not clear already, despite its outrageous title, Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn is one of the most important pieces of cinema in the 21st century. On one hand, it aims to invoke reflection about our present devolution into oblivion. And on the other hand, it behaves like it doesn’t care if the audience is engaging in healthy introspection and explicitly shows what it thinks of that complacency.”
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2. Brighton 4th
Director: Levan Koguashvili | Language: Georgian | Runtime: 96 Minutes
Former wrestling champion Kakhi (Levan Tediashvili, himself a former Olympic wrestler) always has his family on his conscience, and in Brighton 4th, this leads him on a cross-continental journey. After making arrangements to cover for his brother’s gambling debts, Kakhi departs his humble home in the Republic of Georgia to pay a visit to his son Soso (Giorgi Tabidze) in outer Brooklyn. As Kakhi settles into Soso’s Brighton Beach boarding house—which constitutes a popup community of fellow Georgian immigrants—he learns that Soso has also accrued a $14,000 debt to the local mob boss (Yuriy Zur), a roadblock to Soso’s future in medicine.
In our review from Tribeca film festival we said “The story of a father promising to solve his son’s problem and bringing him back really hit me. This is the support system and a comforting presence that those who have it, should acknowledge and appreciate, and those who don’t should remember and be strengthened by. At once a story about the life of immigrants in America, as well as the power of community, Brighton 4th is a movie which should be seen by all, simply because of the stark simplicity of its story-telling.”
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3. I’m Your Man
In order to obtain funds for her research, Alma (Maren Eggert) is persuaded to participate in an extraordinary study. For three weeks she is required to live with Tom (Dan Stevens), a humanoid robot designed to be the perfect life partner for her, tailored to her character and needs. I’m Your Man is a playful romance about relationships, love, and what it means to be human in the modern age.
In our review the German film that won a Silver Bear for Maren Eggert’s lead performance we said “Within all the ups and downs, the flaws and wins, Schrader’s “I’m Your Man” remain centered on Alma’s need to understand herself. This is a simple story that roots her problems in a world that isn’t technologically crippled to let her reel. However, since the problem is internal, her struggles are also supposed to be exactly that.”
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4. Red Rocket
Director: Sean Baker | Language: English | Runtime: 128 Minutes
The audacious new film from writer-director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine), starring Simon Rex in a magnetic, live-wire performance, Red Rocket is a darkly funny and humane portrait of a uniquely American hustler and a hometown that barely tolerates him.
In their review, Indiewire said, “While “Red Rocket” continues the “Tangerine” and “The Florida Project” filmmaker’s hot streak of unpatronizing, street-level stories about sex work in the survival economy, the movie immediately establishes a new visual approach to that familiar terrain. Here, Baker ditches the corporate utopia of Disney World in favor of a more rustic vision of the American Dream.“Red Rocket” may be set in the months leading up to the 2016 election — a clever move that allows Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch to borrow Trump symbology without having to deal with COVID — but the film rejects the unavoidable nowness of the director’s recent hits. It’s a story about people who are stuck in a purgatory that’s older than time itself. Some people can survive in an environment like that. Mikey is not one of those people.”
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Director: Pablo Larraín |Language: English | Runtime: 111 Minutes
The marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There’s eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different. Spencer is an imagining of what might have happened during those few fateful days.
In our review, we said “Spencer is an admirable film in that it shirks all tired biopic tropes. Larrain and Knight realize the utmost importance in fully realized characterization rather than leaving Diana’s legacy in popular culture to do the work for them.”
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Director: Julia Ducournau | Language: French| Runtime: 108 Minutes
Titane: A metal highly resistant to heat and corrosion, with high tensile strength alloys, often used in medical prostheses due to its pronounced biocompatibility. A story about Alexia, and her rebellion to find herself. French director Julia Ducournau returns to filmmaking post her cannibalistic coming-of-age horror film Raw with a wilder more proactive core.
In our review of the Palme d’Or winner, we said, “Titane is a transformative ride that challenges you to think while leaving you speechless. Ducournau is a master of her craft. She knows how to play her audience with a story that starts with horrific violence, only to leave you with an emotional experience that stamps on your mind, body, and soul forever. Ducournau explores various themes concerning sexuality, body horror, rebirth, gender norms, and violence. At heart she wants us to leave with love.”
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7. The Worst Person In The World
Julie is turning thirty and her life is an existential mess. Several of her talents have gone to waste and her older boyfriend, Aksel – a successful graphic novelist – is pushing for them to settle down. One night, she gatecrashes a party and meets the young and charming Eivind. Before long, she has broken up with Aksel and thrown herself into yet another new relationship, hoping for a new perspective on her life. But she will come to realize that some life choices are already behind her.
In their review, Time Out said that “The Worst Person is busy and bursting with recognizable experience. All the messiness of everyday life is here as Julie thinks of being a doctor, then a photographer falls deeply for Aksel, but then feels the passion fade and is attracted by Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), a character closer to her own age and her own sense of drifting through life, not knowing where to land. It asks questions about maturity, about growing up, about knowing when you’ve arrived, or if you can ever really know if you’ve arrived if you don’t know exactly where you’re heading. Any film that can combine questions of mortality with funny, fully alive scenes of sex, social awkwardness, professional screw-ups, and throwaway fun is a rich one. Its brilliant, full-on performance from Reinsve deserves to be celebrated far and wide.”
Souad, a 19-year-old young woman, leads a double life. While remaining conservative and veiled among her family and society, Souad is obsessed with her image on social media and goes in several secret virtual relationships with men. She constantly lies about her personal life, projecting wishfully images of a different desired life. Her ambitions are slowly crushed by the invasion of her true reality. A series of small incidents lead to a tragic event, that makes Rabab, her 13-year-old little sister, embark on a real-life journey looking for answers.
In their review, Guardian said “As well as being subtle, tender and sad, this feature from Egyptian director Ayten Amin is one of those rare films which really engages with online existence and social media – yet without needing to flash up tweets and texts as onscreen graphics in the way most movies do. Souad meditates on the mysterious discrepancy between the image we project on social media and the reality behind it, and also how this discrepancy itself can be corrosive.”
Director: Omar El Zohairy | Language: Arabic | Runtime: 112 Minutes
When a magic trick goes awry at a children’s birthday party, the authoritative father of the family turns into a chicken. An avalanche of coincidental absurdities befalls everyone; the mother, whose mundane life was dedicated to her husband and children, is now urged to come to the fore and take care of her family. While moving heaven and earth to bring her husband back and secure their survival, she goes through a total transformation.
In their review, Variety said that “Strangeness runs through El Zohairy’s tremendously impressive and complete feature debut like an electrical current, but it is treated with absolute, stonefaced straightforwardness, like a really black-hearted Aki Kaurismaki or a slightly more lighthearted Adilkhan Yerzhanov. “
10. Compartment No 6
Director: Juho Kuosmanen | Language: Finnish | Runtime: 107 Minutes
A young Finnish woman escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a Russian miner, the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment no. 6 to face the truth about their own yearning for human connection.
In their review, The Evening Standard says “The immediate assumption upon hearing that synopsis is to compare Compartment No.6 to Before Sunrise (1995) – but there’s not a hint of Richard Linklater’s extravagant and idealistic romance to be seen in Kuosmanen’s muted but meaningful film. To even call this a love story at times feels like overreaching, with no obvious passion or particularly dramatic displays of affection; Kuosmanen instead portrays a unique but realistic kind of romantic love.”
11. The Power of the Dog
Director: Jane Campion | Language: English | Runtime: 126 Minutes
12. A Hero
Director: Asghar Farhadi | Language: Persian | Runtime: 127 Minutes
Director: Radu Muntean| Language: Romanian | Runtime: 104 Minutes
Maria (Maria Popistașu), Dan (Alex Bogdan), and Ilinca (Ilona Brezoianu) are engaging casually in witty repartee as they wind through the muddy roads in their SUV, en route to the town of Întregalde, when they encounter an elderly man. Kente (astounding non-professional actor Luca Sabin) — restless and chatty — asks for a lift to a nearby sawmill. Thereafter, the film follows an unexpected, perilous path as Kente proves to be unreliable with his directions and recollections, and his refusal to remain with the group — sheltered from the bitter cold — sets off a moral quandary that will test the bounds of Maria, Dan, and Ilinca’s empathy, as well as their stamina for misadventure, especially as night falls.
The TIFF dossier states that “Romanian auteur Radu Muntean’s latest is an incisive, mordant, and suspenseful drama about the limits of generosity, as a trio of volunteers delivering relief to a remote village are led on a detour by a stranger.”
14. Everything Went Fine
Director: François Ozon | Language: French | Runtime: 113 Minutes
Emmanuèle is confronted with her elderly father’s declining health following a stroke when the sick and half-paralyzed man asks her to help him end his life.
In their review, Variety says, “Everything Went Fine” abounds in this kind of fragile, viciously knotted family drama, though Ozon’s candid, often bluntly funny screenplay keeps it at a low temperature throughout. Much water has already passed under the bridge as the story begins, and though André’s wishes have imposed a strict deadline on any unaired personal laundry, nobody has the time to make it about themselves. Least visibly moved by his plight is his estranged wife Claude, a sculptor herself more gradually checking out of life following lengthy battles with illness and depression. In a startling, starkly curtailed role, past Ozon muse Charlotte Rampling plays her as a study in resigned, compacted hardness — the camera scrutinizes her features as if she were one of Claude’s own concrete artworks, searching for cracks and shifts in expression.”
15. In Front of Your Face
Director: Hong Sang-soo | Language: Korean | Runtime: 85 Minutes
A former actress with a secret returns to Seoul, South Korea, to live with her sister in a high-rise apartment. After considering a return to acting, she meets with a young director who he asks her to join his project.
In our review, we said, “Hong Sang-Soo instills such quiet mystery to a seemingly simple human drama that you are left moved by the end. There’s seamless potential for a glorious melodrama in the film’s conventional three-act structure, especially in the climax. But the treatment is minimal. In fact, it walks the tightrope of being as forgettable as the random conversation you would have on a coffee table before the pandemic half-stripped you of the privilege. And yet, the unhurried meditativeness and the sense of reality equips the film with a better potency on screen than it would be read from paper.”
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Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul | Language: English | Runtime: 136 Minutes
Ever since being startled by a loud ‘bang’ at daybreak, Jessica (Tilda Swinton) is unable to sleep. In Bogotá to visit her sister, she befriends Agnes (Jeanne Balibar), an archaeologist studying human remains discovered within a tunnel under construction. Jessica travels to see Agnes at the excavation site. In a small town nearby, she encounters a fish scaler, Hernan (Elkin Diaz). They share memories by the river. As the day comes to a close, Jessica is awakened to a sense of clarity.
In our review, we said, “Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s work is very subtle and silent. It demands your patience and the silence around you. It wants you to truly immerse yourself into the journey of Jessica and feel the world she inhabits. Making sense of it is secondary. Therefore, in order to truly assess the movie, watch it all by yourself and then and only then read up on what it means and what it doesn’t mean.”
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17. Parallel Mothers
Director: Pedro Almodóvar | Language: Spanish | Runtime: 120 Minutes
Two women, Janis and Ana, coincide in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single and became pregnant by accident. Janis, middle-aged, doesn’t regret it and she is exultant. The other, Ana, an adolescent, is scared, repentant, and traumatized. Janis tries to encourage her while they move like sleepwalkers along the hospital corridors. The few words they exchange in these hours will create a very close link between the two, which by chance develops and complicates, and changes their lives in a decisive way.
In their review, Slant Magazine says, “The film exudes the same hauntedness of Almodóvar’s Pain & Glory, as well as the narrative curveballs of the wild films he made during his early days. Quite a bit happens in Parallel Mothers, and much of it doesn’t need to be revealed, except to say that Almodóvar continues to toy with notions of heritage and erasure.”
Director: P.S. Vinothraj | Language: Tamil | Runtime: 74 Minutes
Two arid hamlets separated by a distance of 13 kilometers from the down South of Tamil Nadu unfurl a drama witnessed by the sun. An alcoholic wife-beater embarks on a journey, dragging his young son along to fetch back his wife whom he had chased away. The land and human emotions lay brazenly palpable in the scorching heat. This journey is fraught with the sweat and smudge of the common folk, crawling critters and the deserted terrain.
In their review, National Herald says that “Pebbles gives us a bird’s eye view of a parched world that’s sublime in its unashamed starkness even as Vinothraj jolts you with the many riches that lurk in his cinematic simplicity and bareness.”