Filmistan @ Montreal World Film Festival

filmistanOver the years, the Indian films at the festival have often offered a very narrow view of India. It is absolutely not all poverty and people living in villages. Nor is it all about oppression of women and violence within families and communities (although all these do exist), there are a number of interesting independent films with other aspects and perspectives which are rarely presented. I would however, like to commend the festival this year for showcasing the film “Filmistan.” Yet again, their selection shows poverty and village life but the originality of the story and its presentation is excellent.

Sunny dreams of becoming a Bollywood star but he just can’t seem to land a role but eventually gets a job as an assistant director on a film set. This leads to a job as an A.D. for a visiting American documentary film crew. Sunny is asked to transport the equipment in Rajasthan but gets kidnapped by terrorists who were hoping to nab the American crew. When Sunny wakes up, he is shocked to know that they brought him to Pakistan. He is mortified when they decide to hold him hostage in a remote village while the leader heads off to try to capture the Americans.

While being guarded by two terrorists, he befriends a local man named Aftab, who makes his living by selling pirated copies of Bollywood films. The duo quickly become friends and indulge in conversations about their love of cinema. As the villagers instantly warm up to Sunny, the terrorists keep a close eye on him and foil his escape plans. As their friendship grows, Aftab becomes determined to help Sunny escape at any cost.

The script and the presentation of the film really are both quite remarkable. The backdrop of Bollywood films and dialogue along with good music adds color to the story. The actor who plays the role of Sunny is really likeable and his character manages to maintain an optimistic attitude despite the terrible circumstances he finds himself in. The director Nitin Kakkar also deserves credit for really making a good impression with this first feature film.

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