Ebertfest Day Four – Patang

PatangPatang, which means “kite” in Hindi, I believe,  is possibly the most divisive film shown during Ebertfest this year. It’s an Indian film, made by a young Chicagoan named Prashant Bhargava, that has dazzling visuals but left many people (at least that I overheard) say “what was the point?”.

When Patang first started rolling the projection framing was totally wrong, like the picture had been zoomed. After about 5 minutes of movie, where the subtitles were cut off completely, Prashant came back on stage briefly, rapped for us (literally), then explained that the film was shot in a unique aspect ratio, 2:1, so he understood the issues. We then restarted the movie, to everyone’s delight.

Aside from the aspect ratio, Patang is visually stunning film. It is wildly colorful and is broken up by unique handheld sections which are from the point of view of one of the main characters. The plot itself is where other festival goers seemed to lose interest. A rich man and his daughter come back to their home town of Ahmedabad for the traditional kite festival where there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of kites being flown. As the film unravels we learn more about the family and some of their struggles. There are several messages hidden in the film, but I do not wish to spoil it.

I can see why people would be quick to write Patang off, but that is not fair to the material. The story of family is strong here and there is a fresh new filmmaking voice in Prashant. It may not have a tightly focused narrative and it doesn’t wrap everything in a bow at the end, but that is life. We are viewing this family’s life for only a few days out of the year, we are not meant to know everything that has happened or will happen to them, it’s a snapshot in time.

The use of non-actors really helps sell Patang, too. The characters are all believable and while I’ve never traveled to India, I would be surprised to find a more realistic portrayal. If nothing else, Patang is a unique film and that is what small festivals like Ebertfest are for. Even those that left the theater nonplussed by it have seen a film that few others have seen, and very few will likely even get the chance to see.

Unfortunately, I did not stick around for the Q&A session, which apparently had a stage full of people. If you’re interested, it is available for streaming in the links below. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the pronunciation is similar to puh-tah-ng.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Some interesting Ebertfest links:

The festival’s main site: http://www.ebertfest.com/
Stream the interview sessions for free: http://ustre.am/JauL

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Ebertfest 2012 Announcements!

Roger Ebert’s Blog – With the Ebertfest announcement

Allow me to give a brief history lesson to set up this post…

I am from the greater Chicagoland area and have been a movie lover for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my family would watch Siskel and Ebert At the Movies religiously. My father wouldn’t see a movie without hearing the opinions of both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. I have literally grown up with Roger Ebert as the film critic and I’ve enjoyed reading his work my entire life.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ebertfest, here is the official site, here is the Wikipedia page. It pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a film festival helmed by Mr. Ebert. It is held near the University of Illinois campus and unlike other film festivals where submissions are welcome, Ebertfest choices are handpicked.

I am incredibly excited to get to be going this year and a good friend of mine is flying up from North Carolina to share the experience. It’s my first time going, but hopefully not my last.

Now, onto the film choices…

  • Kind Hearts and Coronets – Not only is this a great movie, but Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) picked it and will be the host for the night. Alec Guiness is simply amazing in this.
  • Big Fan – Another great movie, starring Patton Oswalt as a rabid NY Jets fan. Obviously Oswalt will join for this
  • Joe Versus the Volcano – An seemingly odd choice but one of Ebert’s favorites. I’m always up for classic Tom Hanks movies.
  • Phunny Business: A Black Comedy – Totally unaware of this documentary but it is about an all black night club and the owner. The owner of the club, Raymond Lambert, will be joining us.
  • The Truth About Beauty and Blogs – Short film, hadn’t heard of it before but it looks like it will tie into Phunny Business. Joined by Kelichi Ezie, the comedienne and filmmaker. Joined by the writer-director, actors and some crew.
  • Kinyarwanda – I have heard many things about this and if it’s as heart-wrenching as it sounds it will be mesmerizing.
  • TerriHey, I blogged about this! Star Jacob Wysocki and director, Azazal Jacobs, will join.
  • On Borrowed Time – A documentary about the past two years of Paul Cox’s life after getting a life-saving kidney transplant. Should be a fascinating watch. Cox and Nate Kohn will join.
  • A short film collection accompanied by The Alloy Orchestra including Georges Méliès’ Trip to the Moon, which you may recognize from Hugo. Alloy Orchestra members will join the discussion.
  • A Separation – This Iranian film (and Oscar winner!) is something I regret not having already seen so I greatly look forward to it. Director, Asghar Farhadi, is hoping to join.
  • Special effects techniques from the wizards that worked on The Tree of Life.
  • Higher Ground – Not the stoner comedy that its name makes it out to be, this is a film about how religion shapes a woman’s life. Screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs will join.
  • Patang – I don’t believe I had heard of this film before. The director’s father was one of Ebert’s old film students. Director Prashant Bhargava will join along with his father and assorted cast and crew.
  • Take Shelter – A movie that has ranked very high on my ‘to-watch’ list and I couldn’t be more excited that Michael Shannon will be there along with director, Jeff Nichols. So very excited for this one.
  • Citizen Kane – Not only is this one of the best movies ever, but Ebert recorded a commentary track for the DVD release some years ago and that will be playing along with the movie. It is a fantastic commentary to go along with an incredible film.

More details can obviously found in the source link at the top of this post but I must say again…I am EXTREMELY excited for this. I will be posting from the event, so expect more to come!