2017 Silk Screen Festival Focuses on Difficult, Captivating Fare

Reviews of three marquee films included in the 2017 Silk Screen Film Festival, plus local movie news and notes.




photo © studios idrream / macguffin films
 

There is a point in “A Death in the Gunj,” the opening-night film of the 2017 Silk Screen Film Festival, at which it becomes clear that the stakes of the film are much higher than you thought.

Until this point, the film — a tale of family dynamics, desire and maturity set in a small, out-of-the-way Indian village in the late 1970s — seems like the sort of quiet indie drama which will result in tears and understanding, but nothing more dramatic. Then the knowledge creeps in that the placid, beautifully shot idyll before us is a distraction from darker things hiding behind the eyes.

Of the three films I reviewed for this year’s festival, that’s something of an abiding theme — hidden wells of darkness and regret. That should not be taken as a sign that these films are anything less than captivating to watch, however; as always, Silk Screen provides a fascinating and uniformly challenging collection of global cinema.

In “A Death in the Gunj,” directed and written by lauded Indian actress Konkona Sen Sharma in her debut feature, we meet Shutu (Shyamal Chatterjee), the quiet black sheep of a boisterous family, as siblings, cousins and friends retire to the countryside for a holiday. The group is full of strapping, rambunctious men and confident women; Shutu, in contrast, is reserved and sensitive, deeply rattled by the death of his father.

He’s fixated on Mimi (Kalki Koechlin), a striking family friend; when she finally acknowledges his advances, however, a disastrous series of events is set in motion.

The ending to the film is unforgettable, as is its ghostly, bittersweet atmosphere. A far cry from the Bollywood features many Americans associate with Indian cinema, “A Death in the Gunj” is easy, deft storytelling and lovely filmmaking.

“A Death in the Gunj” will be screened tonight at the Harris Theater.

*    *    *

Creeping tension — not fear, but pure tension — rises and climaxes twice in “Harmonium,” a prize-winner at Cannes being screened in Pittsburgh for the first time as part of the festival. A small family is upended when a mysterious friend of the father turns up looking for work, room and board; as details about this new presence emerge (and others are hidden away), any audience versed in Hitchcock will begin gripping their armrests tightly. Quiet, powerful and far more shocking than I anticipated, the thriller from director Kōji Fukada is a gut-punch of a story — and yet never less than beautiful. This is a film that will stay with you, even if you’d rather it didn’t. “Harmonium” will be screened twice: at the Melwood Screening Room on Sunday and at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium on Thursday.

   *    *

Some film festivals which showcase global fare can skew heavily towards weighty, grand films — the sort of work which is likely to be submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Fortunately, Silk Screen makes room for more curious entries as well — undeniably fine films that are probably not headed for the awards circuit, but remain worthy of a viewing. “Kupal,” an Iranian film from director Kazem Mollaie, is just such an entry. The title character is an eccentric and isolated hunter and taxidermist living in a steadfastly secure compound, surrounded by his conquests. When a faulty door leaves him trapped in his own basement, he must find ways to survive and try to reach help. “Kupal” deftly sets up its protagonist’s predicament (although the message may be a little heavy-handed). And while scenes of Kupal’s struggle — not to mention violence involving animals — will undoubtedly put off some audiences, those up for it will find a difficult, moving film akin to a niche domestic indie drama. “Kupal” will be screened twice: at the Melwood Screening Room on Monday and at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium on Thursday.

*    *    *

The Montage: Compare two big-screen versions of “The Great Gatsby” at the Tull Family Theater with a pair of upcoming screenings. The dramatically underrated 2013 film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, will be shown this Monday at 5 p.m.; the Robert Redford version will follow on Sept. 25. The former is free to anyone with a library card (of any kind), the latter is just plain free. Click here for details ... Evaluate the “Essential American Cinema” of the 1980s at Row House Cinema this week, as the Lawrenceville theater shows “Do the Right Thing,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Raging Bull” and “Koyaanisqatsi” ... Start your Sunday off in fine, vintage fashion with “The Philadelphia Story” at The Hollywood Theater. For $15, you’ll also get breakfast.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

True Grit: Homestead Mayor Betty Esper Just Won't Back Down

True Grit: Homestead Mayor Betty Esper Just Won't Back Down

Homestead’s first and only woman mayor has worked tirelessly for her hometown during her 35-plus years in public office. As she faces reelection unopposed next month, the 84-year-old contemplates her role as the symbol of a gritty town fighting its way back.
Photo Essay: Silence on the Cell Block

Photo Essay: Silence on the Cell Block

A look inside the now-empty penitentiary on the banks of the Ohio.
Made in Pittsburgh: 5 Great Ideas

Made in Pittsburgh: 5 Great Ideas

Modern-day creation in Pittsburgh doesn’t just involve physical products; we also have a knack for hatching new ideas that can solve problems in innovative, unexpected ways. These locally based thinkers are applying big thoughts to bigger problems.
Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

Restaurant Review: Scratch Food + Beverage is King of the Hill

The Troy Hill neighborhood spot matures into a casual destination restaurant.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Bud Dupree, L.T. Walton, Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier were among those on the Halloween adventure to the renowned haunted house in Etna.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

The event pairs the city's top chefs with young adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

While we all know and love the grandeur of the fountain at Point State Park, there are many hidden fountain gems throughout the city. These are a few of our lesser-known favorites.

Comments


Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Visiting the world-famous haunted attraction's adults-only, subterranean experience.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

All of a sudden the Steelers have that us-against-the-world mentality many a team has sought to manufacture in tough times such as these.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

A preview of the week-long tribute to the late filmmaker, plus reviews and more movie news.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

In honor of fall, we’re showcasing three couples whose proposals involved one of the best things about the season: pumpkins.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Holiday How-To: Upgrade Your Fall Decor with Advice from Local Experts

Holiday How-To: Upgrade Your Fall Decor with Advice from Local Experts

Interior designers share their tips on creating easy, elegant décor that will take you from Halloween through Thanksgiving.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments