Midnight’s Children at CAAMFest, Review
by Mei Sze Phung
2013 Student Delegate
Deepa Mehta, the director of the Academy Award nominated film “Water” tells this story through film in such a passionate manner. As I watched this film, I was intrigued by the vivid colors, crystal clear images, and the enchanting Indian music.
“Midnight’s Children” is about two boys switched at birth by a nurse, so that “the poor could be rich, and the rich poor.” Saleem is the first of the enchanted children born between midnight and 1 AM on August 15, 1947, the exact moment of India’s Independence. For some historical context, the Indian Independence Act of 1947 resulted in the termination of the British Indian Empire and the close of the British Raj. This led to a struggle between the newly established states of India and Pakistan. Thus, an atmosphere of mutual hostility and suspicion was created between India and Pakistan, which still continues to this day. This film is a story broken into various time frames that capture a span of many years in the 20th century.
Saleem and Shiva, who was originally born to the wealthy Sinai family, grow to become eternal rivals. Saleem has the greatest power of all of the midnight children—he can communicate telepathically and bring all of the children together throughout years of change and political disarray. Saleem triumphs as a success story because of his belief and hope that love can overcome the divisions that split India from Pakistan and Bangladesh. He believes that the children’s purpose is to bring together all of India’s people.
The cinematography of this film is just amazing. There are shots of pure water in contrast with the vibrant sky. There is another shot with silhouette birds against the sunset. There are also cuts to shots of buffalos and lizards, which were not planned, but found when in the heat of filming to add artistic context to the film. The music is intense, and there are scenes that were overwhelmingly sensual, all of which delineates the essence of living. We live to enjoy and to feel with all five of our senses, which this film captivates well. One quote from the movie goes something like this: “Sometimes emotions are turned into food to express what you feel, and then are transferred to the other person so that they too can feel.” The costumes worn by the wealthy Sinai family reflect the cultural extravagance of Indian culture. The cinematography, costumes, and color palette of “Midnight’s Children” intertwine well, I must say.
“Midnight’s Children” reminds me of the film “Slumdog Millionaire”. Both reflect a uniquely distinct yet welcoming culture, filled with emotion, music, and intense scenes that just invite the viewer into a breathtaking new world. The characters’ way of life is just so artistic and cultural, in that traditions remain traditions and are passed down perpetually. On a similar note, this film presents the idea of finding our homes and families. Maybe our families aren’t necessarily the people we were born to. Where do we really belong? It is up to us to find our fate and place in society, where we will meet our real family by fate.
During the Q&A after the film screening, we learn that Deepa is a passionate and organic director who lets her actors play and feel the space, which is captured on camera. “Deepa feels emotions more than anyone else,” one of the lead actors proclaimed. “She finds true emotion out of truth and won’t leave set without it”. I aspire to be a filmmaker like her because I am really into the whole cultural and traditional theme, the diaspora, and the conflict between countries that shape one into who they are. This is the epitome of an artistic film bound by the struggles and ties of being born as who one is born to be and how one grows from the enthralling imperfection of his or her cultural roots. This film is a must watch if you want immerse yourself into an enchanting world!
That’s it from me, Mei Sze Phung, student delegate! Hope you enjoyed CAAMFest!
Chosen from a large competitive pool of undergraduate and graduate students, the Student Delegates are a small yet diverse group of students who rigorously train at CAAMFest “boot camp.” Under guidance from festival staff, student delegates participate in an intense schedule of music events, cooking events, film screenings, discussions, and exclusive meetings with filmmakers and special guests. The program aims to cultivate the next generation of filmmakers, activists, educators, and community leaders. Check back for blogs from all of the 2013 student delegates!
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