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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary VI


Continuing short reviews of films, seen at the 46th International Film Festival of India.

(See Festival Diary I, II, III, IV and V for more coverage)

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: India: Zoya Akhtar

Dude, this was released in 2011! So how come you are writing about it now? Simple. I saw it NOW! Daughter of a writer-poet father, one of India’s best-known, and an actress who was famous as a child star, Zoya is perhaps not as famous as her brother Farhan, who is an actor-director-producer-writer. Farhan has worked under his sister’s direction before, and the duo is in great form here too. Very Western in its plot development and very Indian at its heart, ZNMD works wonderfully on several fronts. How you wish the obvious attempt to plug in Spanish tourism, though cleverly integrated, was not so obvious. Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif are admirable, while Abhay Deol is quite good. If you, like me, missed it earlier, do catch up, sooner or later. ***1/2

Sam Klemke’s Time Machine: Australia/USA: Matthew Bate

Now here’s something different. A self-documentation of the life of a man called Sam Klemke, who grew up in Denver, Colorado, over a period of some 50 years, with selected footage from each year! An Australian director got wind of it and bought the rights, and must have had a nightmare editing hundreds (thousands?) of hours of footage. It’s warts and all account, made for the heck of it, and nobody was more surprised than Sam Klemke himself when it went viral. Extremely jerky footage, very fast cutting and a motor-mouth protagonist do not detract from the merits of this off-beat effort. Certainly not every body’s cup of tea. Certainly worth a watch. ***

Lamb: Ethiopia/Norway/France/Germany/Qatar: Yared Zeleke

Heart-rending and compelling. Five countries come together to make this rustic, earthy, rooted in reality tale of a nine year-old motherless boy’s love for a barren lamb amidst the family’s struggle to make both ends meet, in the drought affected Ethiopian countryside. Yared Zeleke is a 37 year-old, New York educated Ethiopian director, and Lamb is his debut film. It draws from his own life and also underlines the religious orthodoxy in the country, which has both orthodox Christian and Jewish population. Shown at Cannes earlier this year, it is Ethiopia’s entry for the 2016 Oscars. Don’t miss it. ****

Mustang: Turkey/France/Germany: Deniz Gamze Ergüven

Five young sisters brave orthodox Turkish elders to assert their sexuality. It will have drastic consequences for some of them, while two valiant sisters will battle the odds with true grit. Unfortunately, there are just four or five genuine moments in the film, where the audience actually responded with thunderous applause. For the rest, it is uneven going. Customs like checking the white nuptial bed-sheet for blood spilled by hymen rupture on the wedding night are still common in some parts of Africa and the Arab world. Not many women audiences will find such scenes easy to assimilate. Feminist, true, but cinematic standards are not too high. **1/2

My Mother’s Blue Sky: Iran: Ali Ghavitan

Where do Iranian directors dig out their subjects from? Just amazing diversity of scripts! This one is about a little boy and his widowed mother, who resist all attempts by the coal mafia to usurp their coal mine. The mother, too, dies leaving the pre-teens boy at the mercy of the unscrupulous boss, who uses cheap child labour to run his furnaces. But help arrives from an unexpected quarter, and the boy is blessed by his late mother. At just 82 minutes, it has some painstakingly written but wholly credible twists. ***1/2

These two films could not hold my interest till the end, and I walked out of them, at different stages.

Moor: Pakistan: Jamshed Mahmood Raza (Jami)

Great choice of subject—pilferage and plunder of the railroad system in Baluchistan—but handicapped by uneven screenplay and slightly stagey performances.

Cinemawala: India: Kaushik Ganguly

Again a good choice of subject—the disappearing single-screen cinemas in and around Kolkata--but painfully slow pace and stereo-typing of characters, especially father and son.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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