The writer-director-producer curates a ‘must-watch’ list of films for the streaming platform
Though he can’t remember who recommended The Usual Suspects almost three decades ago, for Vikramaditya Motwane, the passion behind the “you must watch it!” made him watch the film. He invested as much emotion when he picked seven films for and from MUBI: Raj Kapoor’s Awaara, Christian Petzold’s Transit, Sameh Zoabi’s Tel Aviv On Fire, Satyajit Ray’s Mahapurush, Jay and Mark Duplass’s Baghead, and Archana Phadke’s About Love.
Given the size of the MUBI library, Motwane had his work cut out. Through multiple revisions, he consciously picked the “non-obvious”, leaving out films like Fight Club and Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy that most cinema fans would have already seen. The selection reflects Motwane’s appreciation for the film streaming platform’s library, which has “movies that go back in time and also from around the world; that’s what is amazing for me: multiple languages, multiple genres”.
He aimed for a balance of titles from India and abroad, as well as between narrative features, documentaries, and genres such as thriller and comedy. Motwane wanted to pick films that people wouldn’t have watched or don’t know are available on the platform. Speaking of Awaara, he says, “Most people won’t even know that a classic Bollywood film exists on MUBI.” Ray’s “funny and entertaining” Mahapurush was a non-obvious choice compared to those such as Charulata and Nayak. Ray’s films, he says, have aged “amazingly”.
Other films he struggled to exclude are Yorgos Lanthimos’s “terrific” and “incredible” Dogtooth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Wife of a Spy, Asif Kapadia’s documentary Diego Maradona, and the Sundance prize-winning documentary, The Wolfpack. Realising he had given away one title too many, he laughs, “Arre, bohot acchi filme hai yaar [There are too many good films to pick from].”
Curated vs algorithmic lists
For Motwane, curation entails much more personal choice than film direction, which is expensive and almost always on someone else’s money. While directing a film, he has to know the size of the audience for a particular type of film and justify the film’s budget. Whereas curation is “a purely personal choice. It’s about your taste. Movies that you like, and you think people will like”, he shares.
He concedes that not everyone would like every film on his list. Even his filmmaker friends might agree with 50%-60%, but there will never be 100% consensus, which for him is the entire point of individual curation.
While, for Motwane, curation is about the beauty of individual taste, the algorithmic lists on most streaming platforms take individuality to another extreme. He explains, “The algorithm recommends something for you versus I recommend these films for everybody.” With the former, the focus is more on the individual’s preferences than good content. Further, algorithms depend on the viewer having watched a lot of content on the same platform. Personally, he doesn’t take algorithms seriously. “Sometimes, I am not sure if the algorithms really know me — as well as I know myself,” he shares.
Given the tremendous clutter of content today, for Motwane, the number one reason to watch something is the passion with which someone recommends it. Alongside, you must think of who is recommending and how much you trust this person. “Over time, you learn whether the person has a taste and if your tastes match,” he suggests. And finally, a decisive factor is many people recommending the same thing.
So, if you trust Motwane’s ‘passion’ for making and watching films, these are the seven he’d say, “You must watch!”
The ‘Handpicked by Motwane’ selection is streaming on MUBI.