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BIFFes 2024 | Best films to watch, from ‘Shivamma’ to ‘Sthal’

Around 180 films from across 50 countries will be screened at the 15th Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) from March 1 to March 7. Here is The Hindu’s list of must-watch films from different categories.

Asian, Indian, and world cinema

Mithya (Kannada)

Directed by Sumanth Bhat, the film features a child protagonist who seeks love in the outside world after losing both his parents. The emotionally rich film is a coming-of-age story that addresses the 11-year-old’s challenges of adjusting to a new environment and nursing his inner turmoil.

A still from ‘Mithya’.
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Sthal (Marathi)

Set in Dongargaon, a small town in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha district, Jayant Somalkar’s film underlines the humiliating nature of arranged marriages in a patriarchal setup. It depicts the life of a young girl, Savita, who wants to pursue education. However, in the hypocritic arranged marriage system of rural India, she gets herself judged for her height, skin colour, and physique. The film was a NETPAC winner at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Evil Does Not Exist (Japanese)

Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the film deals with the rural-urban, man-animal and nature-civilisation conflicts. It is about a single parent, Takumi, and her young daughter, Hana, in a village near Tokyo. What happens when the village people plan to build a camping site near Takumi’s house to offer urban residents an escape to nature? The film clinched the Golden Lion award at the Venice International Film Festival.

There is Still Tomorrow (Italian)

In her debut effort as a director, actress Paola Cortellesi depicts women’s emancipation in post-war Italy. Set in 1946, the comedy-drama mixed with Italian neo-realism is about how Delia, a poor mother, plans a determined escape from her violent husband. The film mirrors the issue of male dominance in every corner of Italian society at that period. A fun fact? After its release in Italy last year, the film was watched by 4.4 million people, more than Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

Shivamma (Kannada)

Rooted in reality, Jaishankar’s film is a strong take on a woman’s resilience. The film, winner of the New Currents Award at the Busan International Film Festival, is about a government school cook who gets into a multi-level marketing business to help her poor family. The film depicts the aspirations of less-privileged people and the economic challenges faced by people from rural backgrounds.

ALSO READ:Rooted in reality and written with empathy, Jaishankar’s Kannada film ‘Shivamma’ goes international


Writing with Fire

The 2021 Indian documentary was nominated for the Best Documentary Feature category at the 94th Academy Awards. Directed by New Delhi-based filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, the film tells the remarkable story of Khabar Lahariya (Waves of News), the only media organisation run by Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh. The Sundance winner shows how women journalists fight patriarchy and discrimination as they report on politics and practice ethical journalism.

And, Towards Happy Alleys

The documentary is Indian director Sreemoyee Singh’s ode to Iranian cinema. A lover of cinema and poetry of the country, she travels to Iran and talks to numerous filmmakers, including the popular Jafar Panahi. In a work spanning six years, the documentary depicts the consequences of the stringent censorship rules in Iran and the reality of women’s rights in Iran.

A still from ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’.

A still from ‘And, Towards Happy Alleys’.
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The Monk and the Gun (Bhutanese)

A political comedy, the film captures the wonder and disruption as the Kingdom of Bhutan transforms into one of the world’s youngest democracies. Set in 2006, the film is about how the titular monk, an election official, a rural family, and a desperate liason of the city react to the upcoming mock elections. The film was Bhutan’s official entry to the 96th Academy Awards.


Abbas Kiarostami: Taste of Cherry

The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, the film tells the story of a middle-aged Tehran man who drives through a city suburb in search of a person who will bury him after he commits suicide. The minimalist drama questions the value of life and asks whether it’s worth living. Taste of Cherry, in classic Kiarostami style, is ambiguous yet interesting.

A still from ‘Taste of Cherry’.

A still from ‘Taste of Cherry’.
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Mrinal Sen: Bhuvan Shome

The 1969 film spurred the New Wave of Indian cinema. Starring Utpal Dutt and Suhasini Mulay, the film is a surrealistic take on loneliness. It is about a widower and a dedicated civil servant who understands the need for human company when he meets a young woman named Gouri. Despite its erotic undertones and art cinema-like treatment, the film impressed the masses. Amitabh Bachchan, in his first-ever film assignment, dons the role of the narrator.

Other must-watch films: Paradise, Blagas Lessons, The Monk and the Gun, Naangal, The Old Oak, 20 Days in Mariupol, Joseph’s Son, Andragogy, Inshallah A Boy, and Thadavu.

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