We are always comparing notes with our friends, on the films they loved & why. We usually end up learning something new about a film we may or may not have seen, as well as come to know our friends a little better.
We thought it would be interesting to know what some of our filmmakers liked watching at the theaters last year & why. So we sent a mail last year to everyone we had access to. Not everyone replied, of those who did, a few responded saying they hadn't seen many films this year, while others didn't find anything that stood out.
Some like Gurvinder Singh, declined saying, "I do not watch many films and naming one will not be a just choice since I have seen very few. I often return to the old masters for my desire to see something great."
Yet, the ones who replied, listed a wide range of films. These include both Indian & international films, across genres. Let us know what you think of this. Are you favourites in the list?
Here's what they responded with;
Bhaskar Hazarika (Dir: Kothanodi)
The film I loved watching the most in 2015 was David Mitchell’s It Follows, which I'm convinced will enter horror canons as an outstanding example of 21st-century horror cinema. From its trippy opening sequence to its pregnant end, the film is an unsettling and intelligent thrill ride. The premise - that fear is a sexually transmitted disease - smartly feeds into 21st-century urban anxieties, and it is played out through a series of cleverly constructed scenes, restrained performances, and a pulsating and creepy soundtrack. Watching a film like It Follows is also like being witness to the birth of a huge horror franchise, much like Saw. So people who like their cinema strong and dark should give it a watch before the sequels mess up the whole experience!
Bauddhayan Mukherji (Dir: Teenkahon, The Violin Player)
For my favourite foreign film of 2015 I would pick Guatemala’s first ever entry to Oscars, Jayro Bustamante’s debut drama Ixcanul. Brilliant cinematography, striking landscapes, unflinchingly real – Ixcanul for me was a window to a hitherto unknown Mayan world full of rituals and customs. Stunning to the core, Ixcanul refused to leave me for weeks after I had watched it. This is a film which was so damn unique that fifteen minutes into it, I knew this would be an experience. So it was... and with it dawned a painful realisation that a film like this can never be made in our country which has its own peculiar standards of animal welfare and censorship! But till then I would be gladly watching Ixcanul with freshly ground coffee beans in my mug!
Chaitanya Tamhane’s judicial system drama Court is my pick for the best Indian feature of 2015. This film has all the ‘I wish I could make’ qualities written on it. What is remarkable about the film is that it smudges the boundary between reality and fiction. It feels like a documentary with planted cameras where people do not perform, they are just captured on camera. In a country where films are steeped in melodrama it takes a huge effort to achieve this. The other plus of India’s official entry to Oscars this year is the brilliantly understated screenplay which refuses to give in to any form of excess. Court has quietly made it to the list of the best courtroom dramas in movie history and for very good reasons at that.
Vasan Bala (Dir: Peddlers)
The most important film experience this year for me was Tamasha. It showed me and made me realize to what extent an Indian director can empower himself. It was not really catering to anyone or anything. It seemed limitless in resources for a film like this. On one end I felt he is the same guy who made his characters travel from Powai to Goa in a minivan for a life-altering journey, also maybe he is saying the same thing here too but this time with absolute power play, recklessness, being vague and detailed with equal broad strokes and cryptic smirk all in the same breath.
The filmmaker's want to tell this in a particular way towered way above the story, setting or characters. Never imagined this could also be done in this day and age. I saw a filmmaker make a film like Viv Richards. All swagger, chewing a gum and treating an Australian Bowling Attack and a Bangladesh Bowling attack the same way. Getting out to a full length "halwa" ball and also hitting a toe-crushing yorker for a six in the same over. Why? Because he can. That's just freaking amazing.
For me this was the first ever "EPIC MIDDLE CLASS" film about the MIDDLE CLASS and for the MIDDLE CLASS told in the way a Karan Johar or Zoya Akhtar would say about the Rich and the Mighty facing First World Issues in their Foreign locales and huge mansions. This new Middle Class is Middle Class no more. Having sky-high ambitions, maybe it backpacks and does not book expensive resorts. It budgets it travel but does not limit it's ambitions to it's available resources. It dreams big and this Jamshedpur boy says, my Ved from Shimla is no less than a Raj from London. Suck it even I can go this huge with the middle class for a boy meets girl story.
Neeraj Ghaywan (Dir: Masaan)
I finally saw Son Of Saul at the Antalya Film Festival after having missed it at Cannes. From the theatre, I returned to my hotel room and didn't want any human interaction to pollute the thoughts that came to me watching this masterpiece. I was simply blown away. For two days now I can't get the images of the film out of my head. I am amazed at the bold storytelling and innovative way of presenting a 'holocaust film' which, even for festivals, has become almost a cliche.
In an Auschwitz concentration camp, Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner, works as a Sonderkommando member, burning the dead. Sonderkommando is an extermination camp where Jewish prisoners were made to work in the gas chambers in order to retain their own lives. Saul discovers his own son's dead body while working up the dead bodies. He decides to give it a rightful burial aided by a rabbi that he must find. Director László Nemes tracks Saul's soulless face throughout the film in almost mid/close shots, keeping the torture and details of the extermination in shallow focus.
This brave shooting format lends the film a distinct cinematic voice- a deeply personal view of the events as against the oft seen detailed out holocaust. Conventional shooting pattern would have robbed off that feeling of actually being there and of course, it would have made it an expensive affair (to get the period accuracy and scale). Sound design has played a major part in this film and its ingenuity is what makes the experience so personal and cathartic.
I still cannot forget Saul's face. It haunts me. Son of Saul truly deserved the Grand Prix at Cannes. Personally I would have preferred if it had won the Palme d'Or. It is a brave cinematic achievement, a genuine milestone.
Shlok Sharma (dir: Haraamkhor)
The premise and characters of Titli, are all so believable. The film's characters are characters I dont know personally, yet i could relate to them in and out. Kanu has done that so brilliantly, picking on such detailed nuances throughout. Ranvir Shorey is so convincing and effortless. Shashank and Shivani look like they belong to those parts. Who can say it was their debuts!
Devashish Makhija (dir: Oonga)
A short film was my most satisfying movie watching experience this year. Forever Over directed by Erik Schmitt. I've immersed myself in making short films this year after many years struggling to release/complete/make my features. and this got me watching a lot of them for the first time this year. when Forever Over ended I felt like Ii'd finished watching a two hour film not a 20 minute one. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing. I just know I found that feeling quite incredible.
How could someone trick me into feeling I went on a much longer journey than I actually did? It's damn hard to take the viewer on a 'journey' in a short film. Most of the time a short film is a slice of a character's life or a relationship. This film presents to us an entire relationship between two people, from love to boredom to seeking excitement to despair to intrigue to introspection to disillusionment to separation to loss to loving again in a different way to starting a whole new life. Does that sound like a hell of a lot? This film does just that.
Pan Nalin (Dir: Samsara, Angry Indian Goddesses)
Mustang by Deniz Gamze Ergüven tops my 2015 list. It’s a mesmerizing characters and heart-wrenching story haunted me for many days. Simple plot takes on epic proportion; five stunning young sisters are imprisoned in their own home. Conservative elders forbid them from having any contact with the outside world, especially boys.
Who better than the young Deniz Gamze Ergüven, both writer and director to talk about today's youth of her native country? Turkey. Their desires, hopes, but also the weight of traditions. For her first feature film, Ergüven displays a real talent with an elegant stage setting, a sensational script and a subtle but intelligent plot twists. Added to the mix superb photography by David Chizallet, is almost invisible! And those Angry Turkish Goddesses? They are beautiful, sensual, fully credible, amazingly natural and darker in life with recklessness of youth -Forced to fight. Those actresses will blow your mind –and the heart.
Abhishek Jain (Dir: Kive Rite Jaish, Bey Yaar)
In mainstream Bollywood my favourite this year was Dum Laga Ke Haishaa, for its simplicity and integrity. In fact, I felt so envious of Sharat that why didn't such a simple film come to my mind. Every film has its own fate but when a filmmaker decides to make it with utmost honesty and his heart-soul into it, that is when a film reaches the hearts of audiences.
This film also set an example for many filmmakers out there that you don't have to necessarily follow a gamut of scheme always, DLKH emerged out of the stable of YRF with utmost simplicity and no pomp show. Realistic, adorable and engaging. In a way Sharat broke all the preconceived notions of the mainstream cinema, with 90s backdrop, an overweight girl as the leading lady and yet he touched upon the contemporary topic of women empowerment. A very strong message of 'breaking away from the shackles of societal notions' was brought out. I remembered the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee while watching this one.
Undoubtedly Inarritu's Birdman is my favourite of 2015, a right mix of content and form. Breaking the rules and still abiding by the ones. This film is beyond description, it's an experience. The way filmmaker has pushed the limits and brought everything on screen is commendable.