The 15th Mumbai Film Festival will open with Lee Daniels’ The Butler on October 17. An inspiring story of an American southerner who served no less than seven presidents in the White House – from Eisenhower to Reagan -- the work is a touching journey of a man who began his life in the cotton fields of Georgia to end up as a White House staffer, played by Forest Whitaker. The movie marks the return of Oprah Winfrey, who co-stars with Whitaker. She was last seen in the 1998 Beloved.
Daniels’ – who produced Monster’s Ball and directed Precious (six academy nods, including Best Director, and two wins) – garnered rave critical notices in the US and Europe.
The festival – divided into several sections including international competition for first features, world cinema, Spanish delights, restored world classics, Kabul vignettes, experimental cinema and the cream from India as well as its new faces – will run till October 24, and is the country’s only festival which is privately sponsored.
A list of 200 movies from 65 countries was unveiled on Wednesday afternoon at a press meet in Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel by festival director Srinivasan Narayanan along with chairman Shyam Benegal.
Offering impressive cash awards worth $220,000, the festival will confer Lifetime Achievement Awards on Kamal Hassan and Costa Gavras, and have on its guest list celebrities such as Bruce Beresford (best remembered for Driving Miss Daisy), Iran’s Asghar Farhadi ( A Separation) and Japan’s Masato Harada.
Celebrating Spanish cinema on the one hand, the festival will pay homage to Pran, Yash Chopra and Rituparno Ghosh on the other. A peep into new Afghan films, a rendezvous with French cinema, A Costa Gavras retrospective, a movie mart and master classes will be part of the exciting eight days the festival runs.
The festival, organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image and promoted by Reliance Entertainment, will have an international jury that will include Masada, Deepa Mehta (Earth, Water) and Konkana Sen Sharma (Mr & Mrs Iyer) and be chaired by Beresford.
Farhadi will head the India Gold jury, which will have on its team Siddiq Barmak (whose film Osama was nominated for the Academy awards), British director Waris Hussein, editor Jill Bilcock (Moulin Rouge, Elizabeth) and Roger Garcia (movie critic and director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival).
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the Mumbai Film Festival)