The 15th edition of the Mumbai Film Festival opened last evening with Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a gripping drama of a White House staffer who saw the roll of history through the eyes of the seven Presidents he served, from Eisenhower to Reagan.
Earlier, the Festival was inaugurated by the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chavan, who promised to help the Festival find greater State support in the coming years. He also conferred the Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award on the Tamil superstar, Kamal Hassan, whose movies Chavan said had been illuminating.
Hassan, who flew into Mumbai earlier, said film festivals had been his greatest teachers, apart from directors like K. Balachander (who offered Kamal some of his first roles), Shyam Benegal (President of the Festival) and the cinema legend, Costa Gavras, who was also honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Benegal presented it.
Gavras, who migrated to Paris in 1954, running away from a hostile political climate in his native Greece, averred that cinema helped people to meet one another. It was practically a window to the world. One learnt and experienced so much by watching movies.
Now 80, Gavras is still physically agile and mentally alert, and what is more, he continues making films.
Organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image and chiefly supported by Reliance Entertainment, the Festival, headed by Srinivasan Narayanan, attracted a variety of luminaries on the opening night that included Anil and Tina Ambani, Benegal, Australian auteur Bruce Beresford (President of the International jury) , Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation and also on the India Gold Jury), India-born Canada-based helmer Deepa Mehta (Water, Midnight’s Children), and actresses Nandita Das as well Sonakshi Sinha among others.
The Festival, which will run till October 24, will screen 200 movies from 65 countries categorised under heads as novel as Kabul Fresh (a string of shorts from the war ravaged region), Celebration Age, New Spanish Cinema, French Rendezvous, Spotlight on Cambodia, International Competition and the cream of Indian cinema.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Mumbai Film Festival)