Although it is not as much fun as it used to be even in the national film festivals in India, it has been a really nice experience.
The way an Indian reacts to the word "movie" is different than everyone else. Movies are just like the languages in India are, full of flavor and entertainment.
We watched a documentary by Brillante Mendoza that follows an ordinary family in the slums of Manila taking care of an orphan until he gets adopted by a wealthy family in the US. It was as easy as being with all the characters. The concept of being a "foster family" was portrayed with complete frankness and fluidity. It made me smile and cry in various places and it also made a mark in my mind because of the uncanny resemblance of the slums to the ones in India. The contrast where you can see high rise buildings going up right behind the abject poverty in the slums makes you think of Mumbai.
Amongst the four that I have already watched, I loved a Spanish documentary titled "The Chicken, the Fish and the King Crab". This is a really intensive expression of a Spanish chef preparing for something that can be called "The Olympics of Chefs" - The Bocuse d'Or that is held annually in Lyon( France).
The contestants are supposed to work with Chicken, Fish and a King Crab and make delicacies that please a panel of jury. The best gets the award.
It was really amusing to watch "food" which is a really trivial issue ( especially for poor graduate students) turn into something that challenges every tiny amount of energy you have!
The rehearsals were hilarious when Jejus ( the lead actor) cooked as though he was cooking in the competition and was reviewed by a panel of Spanish chefs in his restaurant. Every time he has to face a different kind of criticism. Sometimes the sauce is not good enough, sometimes the skins are too thick. They ridicule his sense of art and in the end even criticize the tray that he is supposed to use for the competition.
The competition in itself is a big event with people from all the participating countries cheering on with flags and banners.
Since it is a documentary, Jejus does not win the competition in a dramatic Bollywoody way! He comes ninth and happily goes around showing everyone that he is the ninth best chef in the world!
I really liked the idea because it is refreshing how movies can be made on anything and everything under the sun and still end up entertaining us.
Being in this festival also gave me the satisfaction of watching movies back to back and actually feeling good about myself because I was "doing" a lot of "culture" :).
It also reminded me of Pather Panchali, Bhuvan Shome, Umbartha, Anand, Masoom, Doghi and a lot more that has gone into me while I was in India. :)
I did miss the typical crowd that you find at such fests in India. A lean man in a khadi kurta with Kolhapuri chappals and a godforsaken shabnam bag. Who smokes every time he goes for a coffee between the breaks. And the graceful middle aged woman draped in a cotton saree with a big bindi between her brows!
Nonetheless I am glad it made me think of all of this!!