Day 2 & 3 @ DIFF - Of Placebos, Wolfpacks & Dark Tales Of Evil Stepmoms!

By Arun Fulara. Posted on November 08, 2015

It’s a pity DIFF is just a 4-day festival. I am only now getting acclimatized to this lovely place and the festival is already set to end today.

DIFF has always had an interesting selection of films. As Ritu & Tenzing said in an interview with us earlier, this year too the festival has, “an eclectic mix of films that address a range of subjects, from the self-immolations in Tibet to underground musicians of the Arab Spring, from issues of oppression and freedom of speech to social alienation and form escapism.”

This is unlike most big festivals that end up showing the same movies that have won acclaim internationally.

Capturing reality

DIFF has some really interesting documentaries in their line-up this year. The four that stand out are the Sundance winning The Wolfpack, Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act Of Killing & The Look Of Silence & Abhay Kumar's Placebo.

The Wolfpack is the almost unbelievable story of seven siblings who were locked up in their Manhattan house for 14 years by their father who was afraid of them getting hurt in the big bad world outside. Home-schooled by their mother & brought up on a steady diet of movies, they were discovered by the filmmaker while walking on the streets. What a story to fall upon! The only source of information the kids had about the external world was through movies. They live, sleep, eat & dream their favourite movies & their characters, writing down entire films with complete dialogues & then enacting them amongst.


The film traces the eventual coming-out of the siblings after one of them ventures out wearing a mask and is caught by the police. The film does get a tad slow & repetitive once they've been introduced but it highlights the amazing power cinema has to educate & inform people. Despite no social contact the kids display significant emotional maturity as well as worldly wisdom. I guess, their father's 5000 strong film collection had something to do with that.

I missed both of Oppenheimer's docus but will hopefully catch them sometime soon. Both the films are highly feted, and the The Act Of Killing was nominated for the Academy Awards as well. Powerful & hard-hitting, both his films 'explore the relationship between political violence and the public imagination'.

I could not, however, miss Placebo at any cost. Besides the fact that i've been keenly following the journey of the film since its crowdfunding campaign, the film had created enough buzz at Jio MAMI last week & was the only film to get a standing ovation. It was, therefore, one of THE films that i wanted to watch at DIFF.

The film didn’t disappoint. More than a film, it is an important document of how the competitiveness & twisted definitions of success, put so many of our brightest young minds at risk. Abhay Kumar followed 4 students of AIIMS (India’s premier medical institution) around for nearly two years & chronicled the mindscape of a place which breeds insecurity & pushes these young doctors to the edges of their sanity. During the time Abhay spent working on his film at AIIMS, 4 students committed suicide.

Shooting incognito, Abhay brings out a story that we, as a society, need to face & address. Speaking post the screening Abhay said that, "he wanted to make the film so that conversations could start around the issues raised". He added that, "“The more I have traveled across the world with this film, I have realized that back here, we do not even have the basic vocabulary to even address this issue of depression in our heads".

Here's Abhay himself, talking about the film at CIFF earlier this year.

The film received a standing ovation, which we imagine will happen every time the film is screened in India. We hope it is seen by more people, especially young students, their parents & educators everywhere.

Tales From Across India

Kothanodi was another film that i'd been waiting to catch for quite sometime. Not every day do we get to see horrifying folk tales from the North-East brought to life on the big screen. A most wonderful trend happening in Indian cinema now is the interesting work being done in regional languages. With access to high-quality cameras & editing suites becoming easier, filmmakers are going out & making these lovely films in their own languages, using local idioms. Bhaskar Hazarika's Kothanodi is one such film. Drawing on the folktales he'd heard as a child, he picked up 4 tales centered around women, modified them a little, creating a dark, fantasy-filled movie.

Shot in a very realistic manner, he brings to life the evil characters. Bhaskar has used music beautifully & it adds to the eerie atmosphere. It would be interesting to see how the audience in Assam reacts to the film when it releases there. And we hope that that happens soon.

Some of the films i missed were well received by the audiences here. This included Zero Motivation, Lung Ta & Wild Women - Gentle Beasts. 

What i didn't miss was the shorts that Umesh Kulkarni had curated for DIFF. He's been a regular at DIFF since the first year & has been curating the short films section since year 2. This year he selected a few shorts by first-time directors to encourage young filmmakers to go out and make their own first films. Two of the shorts came from Haryana, one from a Bangladeshi filmmaker & an experimental film by an NID graduate. While the films all had their rough edges, i really enjoyed the film 'I Am Yet To See Delhi' by Humaira Bilkis. Here's the trailer of the documentary, hope it comes online soon so more people can watch it.

Alongside these first time filmmakers, Kulkarni also screened his short film Makkhi & Sujoy Ghosh's Ahalya

The final day of the festival has some really interesting films lined up. Oppenheimer's The Look Of Silence screens in the morning along with Tibetan Warrior, Yallah Underground & Internet's Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Schwartz. I am looking forward to watching Gurvinder Singh's Chauthi Koot & Ruchika Oberoi's Island City. Both the films have won acclaim internationally and depict different parts of our society in different periods. The festival closes with one of my favourite films of recent times, Masaan. All in all a great day to look forward to yet again. :-)


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