Sunday, May 01, 2016

SFIFF59: Mira Nair Charms Castro Crowd

The wildly charismatic and sophisticated multi-talented Indian-born filmmaker Mira Nair came to the San Francisco International Film Festival on Sunday, April 24th, to receive the Irving M. Levin Directing Award and much mutual love and respect was shared between her and the audience.

A packed house at the Castro Theater gave her a rousing standing ovation from the moment she came onstage for a chat with festival executive director Noah Cowen.

Nair currently resides in Kampala, Uganda, the setting for her upcoming new film "The Queen of Katwa" about a female chess prodigy. We saw twelve-minutes of rousing footage of it and based on seeing this extended snippet, I say the film clearly has a shot at being a fall awards-worthy hit.

Before unspooling a 35mm print of her 2001 international smash success "Monsoon Wedding", Nair shared the good news that the Berkeley Rep in March 2017 will premiere the Broadway-bound musicalization of the movie. More delightful applause hearing about this theatrical development.

This was my first time seeing "Monsoon Wedding" and its lived up to its reputation as an insightful and humorous peak into upper class families, and their servants, as their children prepare to marry in an elaborate ceremony during the rainy season.

Dazzling hand-held camerawork and production and costume designs, a bouncy musical score and a dance moves that made me want to join the wedding party, and distinctive subplots spinning so well with pretty much everyone happy in the end.

The icing on this delicious cinematic cake was how Nair spliced brief footage and dialogue from the wedding reception, tying up narrative loose ends, making sitting through the end credits a must.

Definitely a highlight of this year's festival.

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