Gorging On Films

Life is busy. Madaz busy. And the Auckland International Film Festival started on 10 July. This is my time for absolute self-indulgence in the name of audio-visual education. This is the time when I weave films into my life and work, rather weave my life and work around film sessions. It is a process I have mastered now after attending so many Auckland International Film Festivals.

Get a programme, mark all the films I want to see (about 50) and then eliminate them according to whether they will come back into theatrical release (French films, German films, Michel Gondry and assorted cult filmmakers etc always do), clash with my work or with other sessions. That brings the number down to about 30. One year I did 38 films and was completely filmed-out. So much so I could not bear to watch/update myself about Bollywood films. Its another thing that Bollywood films are quite unbearable after gorging on world class cinema and storytelling. I watch Bollywood cinema because it is what I grew up on and if fascinating in the way it includes so many ideas within a format. It is also fascinating in the way so many ‘other’ (‘non-Indian’) ideas are stolen from across the world and turned into Indian stories. I watch Bollywood cinema for cheap thrills, for the songs and to keep in touch with what is going on back in India. I still think of it as my own popular culture that goras would never understand. Oh and there is a gem or two in there that is really worth watching.

Anyway, back to the film festival…after 38 films one year I decided to be a good girl and limit myself to 25. So far I have managed. Some films I usher for, some films I buy the tickets for, some films I am invited to and some films I get tickets in lieu of ushering. All good I say. Just the way I like it aha-aha.

This year the festival opened with TAKE 3, Roseanne Liang’s very simple and very clever short. That Roseanne is talented is without any doubt and that she brings her Chinese-New Zealand sensibility to her filmmaking is amazing. The feature that followed APRON STRINGS is an indication of festival director Bill Gosden’s foresight about New Zealand filmmaking and the shape of this country. Multicultural. Another story by the immensely talented New Zealand director Sima Urale. I feel proud for the cast and crew involved with APRON STRINGS. These are my mates, my colleagues and my teacher, scriptwriter Shuchi Kothari, who has created space for the likes of me. I feel happy for Leela Patel, who brings so much depth to the role of Tara. (She plays Indian nurse Shanti’s mum on Shortland St.) A well made film with great acting. Nathan Whitaker reminded me of a young Shashi Kapoor from SHARMILEE etc. This dude would do well as the chocolate hero in Bollywood. 🙂

Of course watching these films at The Civic just adds to the experience of cinema.

I worked with Sima, Shuchi and some of the crew members on COFFEE AND ALLAH, playing in the HOMEGROWN section of the festival. I did the protagonist’s costume (the blue burkha) and played the nasty Mrs Indian for all of thirty seconds. The first time I saw myself on the big screen (cast and crew screening) I cringed. It was horribly embarrassing. The second time I saw myself on the screen (yesterday) I wanted to hide under my chair. Although I debuted as an actress in Venice dahlings I don’t think I want to be seen on a film screen. Gosh no! Not that I cannot act…just that I think I don’t look ‘good’ on screen. Prefer to be behind the camera. Absolutely!

Now it is three days into the festival and I have stopped counting how many films I am seeing/have seen. In my diary I have only marked the dates, times and theatres I have to go to. The countdown ends at the closing night film WALTZ WITH BASHIR. Until then, I shall gorge on cinema, work on auto-pilot, do some work, earn my living….and vomit at the end of it all.

Then have visions of my mother lecturing me on over-indulgence.

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