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A few good news from the festival circuit I Bienvenue sur le blog de Bruno avec quelques news en français du circuit des festivals francophones. Laissez moi un commentaire quand vous le pouvez.


Hotel Mumbai Excites Manchester Film Festival Ahead Of Official Release

Manchester Film Festival has been delighting British fans of independent cinema this week. Now in its fifth year, the festival - which happens in the Great Northern Warehouse of Manchester, England - has extended its running time to a full week rather than its usual long weekend, such has been the level of interest and number of film submissions it has received for 2019.

More than one hundred and fifty films were scheduled to be shown over the course of the week, spanning the full range of genres. The festival markets itself as having no genre barriers, meaning that all types of film are welcome. As such, venues participating in the festival were showing animated shorts right next to cutting edge virtual reality movies.

There were plenty of self or independently-produced movies on the bill, but it was a film that's getting at least a limited mainstream cinema release that was causing most interest among visitors before they set off to Manchester.

That film was ‘Hotel Mumbai,' a US/Indian produced thriller movie based on true events and featuring a cast of star names. Critics have been able to see the film in other parts of the world since September last year, but it isn’t set to reach screens in the United States until March 29th.

The movie, which contains well known names like Dev Patel (‘Slumdog Millionaire’), Armie Hammer (‘J. Edgar’) and Jason Isaacs (‘Harry Potter’) is based loosely on a 2009 documentary called ‘Surviving Mumbai’, which told the true-life story of the 2008 Mumbai attacks at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The attacks were a terrorist incident, leaving more than 160 people dead. It was first seen at the Toronto Film Festival last September and would have been released in the United States earlier, but it was on the books of the Weinstein Film Company, who relinquished the rights to the movie during their bankruptcy sale. The producers of ‘Hotel Mumbai' specifically requested that the rights to their movie weren't included in the sale, wanting to keep control of their creation's destiny. 

As with any movie based on real-life disasters, the team behind creating the film faced a difficult balance between creating movie drama and maintaining a respectful tone toward their subject matter. Executing that balance fell into the hands of scriptwriter John Collee and director Anthony Maras. If the reviews of the journalists who saw the preview screenings are accurate, they’ve performed the task admirably.

It also speaks volumes of the film’s quality that the team behind Manchester Film Festival thought enough of it to make it the opening film of the entire festival. Manchester, the home of acid house music, has a reputation as a party city. The text of the festival’s official website refers to a festival with a ‘party vibe' and a ‘personal touch,' and so the obvious choice would have been to open with an upbeat film or even a comedy. Instead, they kicked off their week of celebrations with a powerful and deeply moving account of what happens when the worst of humanity set out to harm innocent people. Early reports from the festival suggest that audience members were in tears, but also that the movie received a standing ovation when the credits rolled. As anybody who's been to an independent film festival before knows, that's the ultimate accolade and sign of respect. 

There were, of course, other highlights that film enthusiasts were looking forward to. Just as a festival has to have an opening act, it must also have a finale.

For this year's Manchester Film Festival, that finale was ‘Meeting Gorbachev'; a biographical documentary which sees filmmaker Werner Herzog repeatedly meet with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss his life, his impact on politics and his role in bringing about the end of the Cold War, as well as the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As with the festival organizers choice for opening night, closing the festival with a movie which has been noted to be downbeat in tone seems an odd choice, but also a bold one.

There were, of course, highlights to be found between opening night and closing night. Once such highlight was ‘Veneno'' a drama-documentary about the life and times of Jack Veneno, who was a wrestler from the Dominican Republic. There hasn't been a significant film about professional wrestling since Mickey Rourke's ‘The Wrestler,' and Veneno isn't a name that's known much outside of hardcore professional wrestling fans. He never wrestled in the WWE of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, and so wasn't exposed to American audiences.

The world of professional wrestling is, despite what Vince McMahon would have you believe, much wider and broader than the WWE. Wrestling exists and thrives in many other parts of the world, including Veneno’s native Dominican Republic, and Mexico. Mexico gave the world ‘lucha libre’; the movement that inspired a series of Mexican films. The existence of slot games themed on wrestling that don't include WWE characters suggests that an audience exists for wrestling beyond those who just tune in for ‘WrestleMania,' and so it may be that the ‘Veneno' movie finds a wide audience despite the near anonymity of its subject. Critics have been impressed by the film so far - it won awards at Sydney Indie Film Festival in Australia when it was screened there.

Those who missed out on the festival this year shouldn't be too disheartened; in each of its five years of operation so far, there have been more films and events on offer than the previous year. As we covered earlier, demand for the festival this year was so heavy that they had to apply for extra days at the venue in order to accommodate everybody. It's a safe bet to say that Manchester Film Festival will occur again in 2020, and if you haven't been before it's an excellent reason to visit one of the United Kingdom's most vibrant creative cities.


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About Bruno

chatelin bruno

This Blog in french, is managed by Bruno Chatelin

It covers the french film festivals circuit with ambience and news.
Videos and audio podcasts.

C'est qui Bruno?
HEC, publicitaire chez Intermarco Publicis, DMM et JWT puis distributeur chez Sony Pictures (Directeur Marketing) de 1987 à 1995 puis UGC FOX (Directeur Général de 95 à 97, à la création du GIE)

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