UMA DA CUNHA | 21 SEPTEMBER, 2015
Toronto Film Fest Held In The Shadow Of Women
The 2015 Toronto Film Festival this year is awash with films that are women centred. What’s more, many of them are made by women directors.
Walking into the main festival theatre, TIFF Matchbox, the passing comment addressed to me was, “There are a lot of Indian films this year, aren’t there. They seem very different this time round”.
To augment the Indian film, there are others that are India related made by known and new international directors.
The Indian films have registered more strongly arguably because they are in fact so dramatically different. A majority are on women, whether from village or city, who gather the will and bonding to break the rules that bind them. In addition, a majority are made by women directors – another clarion call to what is happening today in our on-going film firmament.
The major success at Toronto has been Leena Yadav’s “Parched”, set in rural India on four tradition- shackled women who bond and go wild on freeing themselves. Leena Yadav was front-lined in New York Times with a free-wheeling interview. Even more key, festival end, the public demand for the film led to an extra screening.
Pan Nalin’s “The Angry Indian Goddesses” (AIG) came to Toronto with pre-sold glory. Far from village India, this film sizzles with modern-day Indian women basking in careers such as photography and fashion. But, it also tellingly underlines the dark side of women who fight social norms on every level in their lonely embattled struggle. “Parched” is led by three extraordinary women actors Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Riddhi Sen and AIG has five or six of the most, alluring femme fatales Sarah-Jane Dias, Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Amrit Maghera, Anushka Manchanda, Pavleen Gujral, Rajshri Deshpande. The one remarkable actor linking both films is Tannishtha Chatterjee, whose amazing range can anchor the most diverse role.
The presence in Toronto with these remarkable onslaught of talented young women made people sit up and notice.
Meghna Gulzar, another woman director, screened her film “Guilty” (Talvar) which resonated well with Toronto audiences and critics. While the film was on the notorious double murder that took place in North India, it has been made in a way that has struck a universal note. Star value helps, of course, with Irrfan Khan being an established festival draw.
In the documentary and shorts sections, India’s entries are by women directors: Shambavi Kaul’s “Fallen Objects” and Megha Ramaswamy’s “Bunny”, respectively. In Wavelengths section Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel’s An Old Dog’s Diary.
From abroad, Toronto’s programme has many films on women facing challenges of all kinds.
In fact, the French film “In The Shadow of Women” by the iconoclast filmmaker Philippe Garrel goes back to the nouvelle vague of the 1960s to castigate the narcissism of his male protagonists when it comes to the women that feature in it. From Japan, “Our Little Sister” directed by Hirokazu Koreeda is a gentle unfurling of what happens to a fractured, all female family living in a seaside town. In the Spain/France film “Ma Ma” directed by Julio Medem, Penelope Cruz sheds her customary glamour to present the trauma of breast cancer in clear, practical terms.
In the deeply moving British film “The Danish Girl” set in Copenhagen and directed by Tom Hooper, the spotlight on women takes another hue – with a happy, vibrant marriage that derails when the husband realises that he wants to be a woman and his wife faces this tragic vacuum in her life by helping him in every way to achieve this goal. This true story is apparently the first case of a man being operated for sex change which he faces bravely but dies in the attempt. The emotional insights and understanding of the two main characters in this film, makes this a touchingly enlightening view of the fragility of human relationships that depends so much on gender equation and more, so the anguish of the person who has to face the gender transformation.
Spotlight on "Angry Indian Goddesses" in 2015 Toronto
The 40th Toronto festival's awards were announced on September 20, the day after the festival ended. Pan Nalin's "Angry Indian Goddesses" was declared runner up to the Grolsch People's Choice Awards (Lenny Abrahamson's "Room" won the main award).
Toronto's Audience Award is the most prized and significant award in Toronto's line-up. This is the award that is followed closely by distributors as an indicator of what will run in theatres across continents.
Congratulations, Pan Nalin. Your film is certainly going places on the world map!