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Jio MAMI Film Festival 2023: Embracing Diverse Narratives

Growing up, films were always an integral part of my life. Some families play sports together, some have barbecues. My family watches movies, A LOT of them. Today, I see them as more than just entertainment, as a medium for storytelling & change.

One way to hone that is to watch as many films as possible. I was once told one should review the films they watch, like a diary entry, even if it’s just for themselves. OTT platforms made that effective. However, nothing beats sitting in a cold movie theatre with a bunch of strangers and spending three hours laughing at the same jokes, crying at the same moments, & walking out feeling like something inside of you has changed. Whether you walk out of the theatre loving or hating the film, it’s an experience you can’t quite replace.


Film festivals are a great way to watch a plethora of diverse films & meet people who come from all walks of life yet share an appreciation for films. In college, I only attended one small offline festival before the pandemic hit.

Then came Jio MAMI Film Festival 2023, one of Mumbai’s finest film festivals. It had been on my bucket list for so long and I still can’t believe I attended it. I feel like, since the pandemic, we all appreciate these tangible, on-ground events a lot more. Anyway, let’s get to the point. Jio MAMI Film Festival 2023 brought together diverse films, and in this review, I share my thoughts on six feature films and a short film anthology. I know that’s not a lot, but I’m happy with the ones I did watch. So, let’s begin.

"The whole aspect of cinema and film festivals should be a moment to come together and celebrate art and humanity. It would be a shame if there was such a divide." Keanu Reeves

My Watchlist

1. Art College 1994

The synopsis for this film states, “The film is a portrait of youth set on the campus of the Chinese Southern Academy of Arts in the early 1990s…..Caught between tradition and modernity, they now have to choose who they want to become.” This Chinese animated film directed & written by Liu Jian, caught my eye the most when I was browsing through the festival schedule. I have never really seen Chinese films, so I went in with no idea of what to expect.

What I found was a beautiful subtlety in visuals, good music, simplicity in its world & characters, and a focus on the dialogue & interactions that brought out the beauty in the surroundings, like a scene where Lili & Hao are talking and a butterfly follows them, with the focus not on the girls but on the butterfly, and the scene ends when they stop talking & the butterfly settles on a wilted flower. It felt like a Chinese version of Before Sunrise to me, but with friendship in focus. However, the movie gets a bit slow in the second half and tests the audience’s patience.

2. Notre Corps (Our Body) 

This is a French documentary showcasing a diversity of cases in the gynecology department of a Parisian public hospital. The filmmaker, Claire Simon, is herself one of the cases in the film.

What I loved about the film was the diversity of cases showcased from teen pregnancy, abortion, gender transition issues at different ages, fertility issues, IVF, endometriosis diagnoses & surgery, childbirth (natural, epidural, C-section, postpartum difficulties), to cancer (breast, ovarian, uterine) at various ages. It not only did it share real stories of real women, but we also got an insight into how doctors view these cases & how they deal with the patients.

In my opinion, the only downside was that 3 hours felt a bit too long to maintain the intrigue of the audience. To conclude, I can say that it was an interesting way to raise people's awareness of the complexities of the female body from a female’s perspective. I certainly learned a lot about myself & my body, that made watching this documentary worth every second.

3. Hoard 

This English drama by British filmmaker Luna Carmoon stands out from the first two films. It's about a unique mother-daughter relationship that revolves around “hoarding” & how that seeps into the daughter Maria’s adulthood when someone with a familiar scent comes along.

At first glance, this movie seems quirky, in a good way? The question mark is inserted here, because this movie makes you squirm but want to keep watching it at the same time; definitely a point where the director & cinematographer’s vision shines through. It delves into how psychological dents can cascade into huge storms in adulthood, just by a tiny trigger or a series of small unintentional triggers. Like another orphan with the same foster mother, the best friend who is sent away, the end of school, or a cue chalk that evokes childhood memories. The more you let the film sit with you, the more you realize that it showcases how the psyche functions in more obvious, outwardly ways.

Besides these impeccable plot points, the film wouldn’t have worked or hit the right note without the flawless performances of Saura Lightfoot Leon (Maria), Joseph Quinn (Michael), & Hayley Squires (Cynthia/Mom), who really allow you to empathize with the characters and the plot (and make the quirky believable); to truly believe that this could happen to just about anyone if they went through the same circumstances. To wrap it up, while this film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is one I would urge you to watch & reflect upon as it is truly worth it.

4. Dieu est une femme (God is a Woman)

According to its synopsis, “In 1975, Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau, an Oscar-winning French filmmaker and anthropologist, spent a year documenting the Kuna’s matrilocal society. He promised to share the resulting film with the community, but that never happened.” This Spanish documentary about a documentary by Andres Peyrot follows the Kuna community's, in particular Arysteides Turpana’s quest to retrieve the 50-year-old documentary, & “captures how a younger Kuna generation is making their own media.”

What was interesting to see was how modern media has infiltrated tribes over the years and how we, the “city/non-tribals”, view them as backward or not-so-modern, when in reality, they have evolved with us, just with a better respect for nature. Also, it's touching to see that they want to find the documentary to be able to see their loved ones who have since passed away and more importantly, to share their culture with future generations.

While this cultural, emotional journey is captivating & keeps you hoping for the best, I would’ve loved to see the film delve deeper into how & why their tribe is matrilocal, as this is emphasized several times but not really explored well. Nevertheless, this documentary is a must-watch to gain a more respectful understanding of tribes in the modern world.

5. Pushtaini (Ancestral)

This Vinod Rawat-directed film is about a struggling Bollywood actor in a race against time forming unlikely friendships & unraveling old wounds to save himself from a disreputable scandal.

What I loved about this film is that it not only talks about not only the impact of certain childhood experience on you as an adult, but also how a stranger you met by chance can help you grow out of that space. Also, I don’t know how else to explain it, this film had a sense of authenticity in this film that shone through in every scene in the hills. The 90-minute mark was also perfect, as a longer running time could have made the film feel like a stretch.

While I wouldn’t say this was the best film I have seen this year, it had a lot of potential and I would recommend you watch it if you want to experience a simple story that deals with important issues in a subtle way.

6. Daliás idök (Heroic Times)

This 1983 restored classic by József Gémes is based on an epic narrative poem by Hungarian writer János Arany in the 19th century.

What was most interesting about this film was that it was not only animated, but also used oil paintings as a form to portray the story. I personally have never seen anything like it and was quite fascinated by it. There’s not much that can wrong with classics like this, since they are classics for a reason. I really enjoyed this film as it was not something I went in with any expectations or knowledge, but came out with an enhanced understanding of the functioning of animated films & storytelling before modern technology.

7. Lonely Hearts 

With love, hope, & beautiful complexities of relationships in focus, this was an anthology under the Focus South Asia category with 5 short films - Goodbye, Hello, Windhorse, XO, Melody Day, & Mai.

(i) Goodbye, Hello: This short film directed by Omkar Phatak was definitely the quirkiest of them all, in a good way. It contains hardly any dialogue and relies on subtitles while showing us a unique yet relatable conversation between a young girl & a ghost. That’s right, a ghost. What I liked about this short was that it didn’t follow any of the predictions I was forming in my mind. Credit must be given to Zahara Sethjiwala & Aditya Ravi, who played the girl & the ghost, for portraying the emotions so expressively that they conveyed the message without going over the top. It was a pleasant surprise & a warm watch.

(ii) Windhorse: This short film is a simple story about a father and son who embark on a journey to explore the meaning of family for them. What makes this Sunil Gurung direction exciting is its setting of ancestral monasteries in Nepal. Again, a simple story with a warm message.

(iii) XO: This short film by Samrat Dasgupta is about a romantic recluse who forms a bond with a stranger she never meets through a game of tic-tac-toe. While it's a fairly simple story, what I appreciated is that they didn’t try to add any masala to it. They kept it real, sweet & simple and focused on the protagonist’s discovery of self-worth & self-love; a story many of us need to be reminded of.

(iv) Melody Day: This short, directed by Shailesh Singh, tells the story of an Indian man in Poland who travels to a new city to cope with his recent separation, and chances upon an unexpected romance. This was an intriguing short because it talked about how Indian immigrants live in other parts of the world besides the West. But more than that, it showcases how despite all our differences, all of us humans essentially want the same things in life & make the same mistakes. They portray this through the age-old, beautiful medium of flirtation & romance.

(v) Mai: This film is about a man, who is obsessed with his mother’s food and is left with several dishes that his mother prepared shortly before she passed away. While it might not sound too appealing to you from the get-go, it immediately became my favorite short film I saw this MAMI.

It explores themes of loneliness & grief through the medium of food, and while we might seem taken aback by his obsession with preserving the food, the film manages to convince us. After all, don’t we all want to preserve things associated with a person close to our hearts & souls - be it clothes, diaries or, in this case, their food.

The treatment of the story, the dialogues, the set - everything played a beautiful part in engaging & convincing you to empathise with the protagonist, accompanied by the remarkable performances by Kunal Roy Kapur and Shahana Goswami. It was no surprise when I found out that this short was written & directed by Milind Dhaimade, who also made the soothing watch Tu Hai Mera Sunday. Mai is undoubtedly a must-watch for anyone & everyone.



To wrap up, Jio MAMI Film Festival 2023 offered a magical showcase of storytelling through diverse films. And this was my naïve yet stimulating review of them.

As Francis Ford Coppola once said, “I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians.” 

And in these films, I saw magic. Some may have been better than others, but they all had that magic, the magic of storytelling, the magic to change your perspective.

Now to you- Did you attend Jio MAMI Film Festival 2023? Which films did you watch & which were your favorites? I look forward to your thoughts/reviews in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, please drop a like and share it with your family and friends, and for further blog updates follow me on my Instagram handle @helzeeblog , on Wix and also on YouTube. See you next time! Till then, always remember, Be brave. Be strong. Be great.💛

~ helzeee 💛

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2 comentarios

Mitesh Pandya
Mitesh Pandya
24 dic 2023

Thanks for all recommendations and insights

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Helee Pandya
Helee Pandya
28 dic 2023
Contestando a

I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed my blog post! Hope you like the movies too! :))

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About Me

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Lifestyle | Self-growth

Storyteller at my core & writer at my front, I'm here to share stories with you that help you see the magic in the world.💛


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