After a three- year absence, Jio MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Image) 2023 was back in Mumbai in a blaze of glamour, style and drive. The Opening Ceremony (despite its tardy start) at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre – rated the most technologically advanced theatre in India – boasted opulence and design. Acclaimed actress and Festival Chairperson Priyanka Chopra Jonas moderated the event while other well-known stars (Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Kamal Hassan) had their moments on the stage.
It was an evening full of impassioned speeches and one of awards that had been decided earlier. Veteran Indian filmmaker Mani Ratnam and Italian filmmaker and producer Luca Guadagnino were honoured with Excellence in Cinema Awards, while Aruna Vasudev (Founder of NETPAC) received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her extensive work on Asian cinema, as did Nasreen Munni Kabir and Uma da Cunha – both of who have dedicated their lives to promoting cinema in many different ways.
This 23rd edition of the festival (it was launched in 1997) returned to Mumbai after a three year gap. And it brimmed with ambition: bringing in new cinematic voices, promoting collaborations and business opportunities and showcasing South Asian Cinema apart from, of course, world cinema. And one cannot miss the fact that three young women were at the helm of this complex operation: Anupama Chopra (Director), Maitreyee Dasgupta (Co-Director) and Deepti D’ Cunha (Artistic Director).
More than 250 films in 70 languages were screened across the city. The fourteen competing films from South Asia were viewed by a four member jury headed by acclaimed director Mira Nair and other well-known personalities – Edouard Waintrop, David Michod and Isabel Sandoval. Jio MAMI has made it its goal to become a hub for South Asian and South Asian Diaspora cinema. The non-competition section, too, comprising both features and non-features, had a focus on South Asia.
Enriched with retrospectives, tributes, restored classics, virtual reality screenings, Marathi films (comedy, drama, history, romance, experimental works) and films from around the world, together with a homage to the eminent critic and historian Derek Malcolm who passed away recently, Jio MAMI fitted the bill of a festival that is rooted as much in the state of Maharashtra and in South Asia, even as it stretched out its arms to the world
It was Against The Tide by Sarvnik Kaur (an Indo- French co-production) which walked off with the Golden Gateway Award, a gutsy film about two young fishermen friends who have to face a hostile sea because of climate change and personal challenges. The Silver Gateway went to the Indian film Bahadur – The Brave which dealt with Nepalese migrant workers who want to return to their country during the pandemic. While Agra (yet another Indo- French co-production) about the sexual evolution – even obsession – of a young man living in a crowded tenement.
The NETPAC Award was won by Rapture by Dominic Sangma. Coproduced by India, China, Netherlands, Qatar and Switzerland, this beautifully shot film is set in the verdant and hilly state of Meghalaya. In a village peopled by the Garo tribe, Rapture has a variety of interwoven strands that merge nature, faith, corruption, church, evil spirits, rumours of strangers entering the village and of kidnapping and trafficking in human organs. The NETPAC jury commended it for “delicately combining the natural and the supernatural worlds inhabited by a community and for evoking the mysterious challenges it must overcome both in itself and beyond.”
For ten days, Mumbai’s film lovers were treated to an exceptional feast. With the high goals it has set for itself, Jio MAMI has a long road to tread.
Written by Dr. Latika Padgaonkar