The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) came to a close this month, including a variety of films with an interesting twist, from the graphic, to the suspenseful and witty.
In the Indian feature film, “Aayna Ka Bayna,” nine Marathi Indian boys escape the abusive Yashwant Juvenile Detention Center, overseen by the ruthless warden Sathe (Sachin Khedekar), running from the police and risking their lives to participate in a national dance competition. Jangly hip-hop dance numbers are mixed in with dark flashbacks of what led to each boy’s incarceration and the encouragement of their dance teacher Shivani (Amruta Khanvilkar).
“Every person dances in some time in their life,” said director Samit Kakkad in a recent interview. “It’s a great way to tell a story.”
The story follows the boys along their journey from the moment they decide to break free from the detention center to the struggles they have along the way in fulfilling their dreams to dance.
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, then it became a butterfly,” said Kakkad. “That’s the story of the film.”
Kakkad makes his directorial debut with this movie. To bring out the natural reactions of the boys, who he cast based on their dancing abilities, Kakkad only provided them the script 10 minutes before he shot each scene.
“Every day something new happened with the film,” he said.
The entire film was shot in Mumbai in the course of 27 days, and more than 400 boys auditioned.
“Filmmaking is such a beautiful process from the first two words, ‘fade in,’” said Kakkad.
The film was choreographed by Umesh Jaadhav and Rohan Rokabe (who was instrumental in starting hip-hop in India) and scored by music directors Ajit and Sameer, who meticulously wrote the music after the final edit of the film to match the beats of the music to each dance step. Kakkad’s parents, Amar Kakkad and Pushpa Kakkad, as well as Manju Paras Porwal, served as producers on the film.
“Making films and watching films is a way of life. For me, making films is a necessity,” said Kakkad. “To be part of the Seattle International Film Festival is a proud moment for me.”
“Aayna Ka Bayna,” joined a unique lineup of other films at SIFF.
In stark contrast to the light-hearted feel of “Aayna Ka Bayna,” “Nightfall,” director Roy Chow’s crime drama from Hong Kong, opens to a brutally graphic scene of a bloody beating in a prison shower. In the film, convict Wong Yuen-yeung (Nick Cheung), is released with a vengeance and investigated for the mysterious murder of an opera singer. Inspector Lam (Simon Yam) is assigned to solve the 20-year-old case. The films jumps back and forth between the inspector discovering clues about the case, flashbacks, and seemingly perverse scenes as the convict stalks a young girl who plays the piano. The intense and colorful cinematography of Ardy Lam helps to balance out the over-the-top acting and otherwise stale screenplay by Roy Chow and Christine To.
“Celluloid Man,” a documentary by award-winning director Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, highlights the contributions of legendary film archivist and conservationist P.K. Nair, who founded the National Film Archive of India in 1964. The film includes tons of archival footage from many of the films Nair was responsible for obtaining, as well as countless interviews with filmmakers and directors. The film — almost three hours in duration — is very comprehensive. It not only reveals many of the treasures Nair uncovered, but also gives insight on how his passion for film deeply impacted his life and the relationship with his family.
With a mixture of comedy and suspense, “Filmistan,” an Indian film by director Nitin Kakkar, tells the story of Sunny (Sharib Hashmi), a wannabe-actor who is mistaken for an American and kidnapped by Pakistani terrorists to a Pakistani border village. This debut feature film of Kakkar’s includes humorous scenes as Sunny tries to win over and befriend not only the terrorists, but also those who live in the Pakistani village where he is being held hostage. A loveable character, Sunny, breaks down misconceptions the Pakistanis have of those from India and bonds with them over their love of Bollywood films. He even helps the terrorists direct his own plea for release in a hostage video. Although comedic, “Filmistan” has a serious edge to it; the story keeps you guessing whether or not Sunny will make it out alive.
“Ripples of Desire,” one of the most expensive films in Taiwanese history, made its North American premiere at SIFF. Directed by Zero Chou and set in 17th-century Taiwan on an island in the South Sea of the Ming Dynasty, it is a riveting romance complete with pirates. The biggest treasure on the island is the singing sensation of sisters White Snow (Michelle Chen) and White Frost (Ivy Chen), the star courtesans at Madame Moon’s Flower House, who attract regulars and newcomers vying for their hearts. Behind their mesmerizing beauty and musical talent, they hide many secrets. They have a tragic history of leprosy in their family and sister Xiao Xue already has someone she is fond of, which puts them under suspicion and at the risk of losing their lives. The cinematography of Liu Hoho in “Ripples of Desire,” is breathtaking and the screenplay, written by Chou, is compelling and original.