Manifesto (Julian Rosefeldt, 2017)


Advancement of technology in film is a constant, and thus, the horizons of its boundaries as an art are also ever expanding. For the first time in my life, I really had to contend with whether a single screen theater was limiting for a motion picture. Julian Rosefeltd’s film, or more appropriately, cinematic art piece, Manifesto is a movie which was exhibited in two different forms, both vastly changing the structure and therefore the perception of the piece as “cinema”. It was first released in the Australian Center for the Moving Image in a gallery setting which showcases Cate Blanchette, playing 13 different roles, on different screens throughout the room and reciting 13 different manifestos on the idea of “art” itself. As you walk deeper, the voices of her different characters start to create a conversation or argument, or as Jane Howard put it in The Daily Review, “an unspoken stand-off”. This is an experience, a three-dimensional space which takes the 2-D cinematic image and echoes it to and from us in multiple directions. It’s a cinematic piece you literally walk through, experience as you are in motion in real time, in the real world.

Suffice to say, this is not how I personally experienced this film, and it brought about limitations and complications which again, made it clear that a single-screen theater was inadequate in showcasing the new horizons of what artists can do with the film medium. Manifesto, the 90-minute popcorn motion picture, is not much more than a long-string cut-and-paste rant. Out of the 13 different sermons you sit through, the only one which made any sense in the traditional theater setting was the news broadcast because, well, by its definition it is to be watched motionless in a single sitting. Rosefeltd’s writing is clearly passionate and clearly demonstrates a deep understanding of art history and it’s underlying philosophies, all of which are masterfully recited by Blanchette who, in many cases hams it up (perhaps the nature of the piece is to be satirical of art), but also manages to embody the writing in her movements and her biggest asset as an actress, her eyes.


Australian Center for the Moving Image opening showcase of Manifesto.


It was clear, however, that I was watching something that begged to be limitless, not constrained in a traditional movie theater and demanded its viewers to not be sitting on their asses munching on popcorn for 90 minutes. It perplexes me why Rosefeldt would want his film to be shown in this setting after two highly-touted exhibits in Australia and Berlin which captured the essence of the project’s ambition: to create a cinema which architecturally invades us through all its forms, visual, audial, and as interaction with the viewer. If the gallery exhibit was like riding a rollercoaster in an amusement park, the theater screening which I sat through was more like someone reading me the entire pamphlet or brochure for Six Flags. Maybe this was the point. By showing the project in both areas, Rosefeldt can illuminate the limitations of the theater complex itself. If film is to enter a new horizon as and artistic medium, then Rosefeldt is claiming its current home of the movie theater is not sufficient.


Killa (The Fort)

Killa – The Fort (Avinash Arun, 2015)

The trend of Marathi cinema’s foray into a deeper introspection on coming-of-age stories (others being Vihir, Fandry, Regeand Shala)** can be thought of as a watershed moment in Maharashtra itself where the community’s evolution has now gone from simply considering kids as a naïve collective who’s heads should be in books and exam papers to complex individuals who’s discovery and learning comes through exposure with the lessons of life. Killa’s main situation, of a boy and his mother who end up changing jobs and locations often is a great fertile ground to explore the main child Chimya’s restlessness and abandonment in the new community he is forced to take head on. He finds solace in a group of ragtag friends, but his timid nature and inability to socialize on a deep level leaves him to his own devices, feeling betrayed at any sign of neglect or exclusion both from his friends and his mother.

The crux of the movie, and what leads to the title of the film, is when Chimya goes on a biking race with his friends to an old fort from the British Raj, and he loses them. As rain pours down he finds a hiding place in one of the fort’s tunnels. Once he gets back to the entrance he sees only his bicycle remains. It’s a seminal moment in the film because it brings Chimya back to square one in terms of trusting anybody in the new community. For the entire time, he had argued with his mother that he wanted to go back to Pune, but once he made friends, he was slowly starting to come around. His quick decision to crawl back into his shell has negative effects on the innocent people in his life as well. His mother is discovering a wave of corruption on her legal office and her and Chimya’s connection starts to tatter. Chimya also scoffs at the food prepared by one of his mother’s friends, a moment where we realize his anger and detest has spread from his just friends circle out to the community in general.

Avinash Arun films Killa beautifully encapsulating the serene greens and blues of the coastal villages of India, and the only major grievance I had with the film is that the actor who plays Chimya definitely shows his discomfort and amateur chops (or lack of chops) on screen. He never looks the way a child is supposed to look when depressed or abandoned, rather it’s a stiff performance and can be irritating to watch at times. But this is mostly forgivable because Arun does evoke the alienated feelings of youth in new environments and the anxiousness to discover with a refreshing simplicity and a nice lack of pretense.

**Click the name of the movie to get transferred to a review of the movie