Toronto Film Review: Village Rockstars

Variety | 9/13/2017 | Staff
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When the Dublin schoolboys of “Sing Street” form a band, it’s all about scoring with a girl. In “Village Rockstars,” tucked away in an Indian backwater, a moppet also has rock ‘n’ roll dreams, but her goal of becoming a guitarist is motivated by larger issues, like rebellion, empowerment — and to send a message to the universe. Pluckily optimistic and unsentimental to a fault, writer-director Rima Das’ second film is a tonic to third world poverty porn. Das shot the film almost single-handedly on a minuscule budget, but it doesn’t impair the movie’s visual quality or its market potential one bit. In fact, the picture’s rustic charm and “You go, girl!” attitude should rock the house.

In opening titles, Das dedicates the film to her hometown of Chahaygaon in the northeast India state of Assam, and sure enough, every frame brims with affection. But she’s not the first filmmaker to base creative works on personal memories, and “Village Rockstars” also boasts considerable artistry, shot in a light-footed style that’s part documentary, part tone-poem, without leaning on crowd-pleasing insertions of songs or performance numbers.

Dhunu - Bhanita - Das - Village - Assam

Ten-year-old Dhunu (Bhanita Das) lives in a village in Assam with her widowed mother (Basanti Das) and elder brother Manabendra (Manabendra Das). While helping her mother sell snacks at a local event, she becomes mesmerized by a band that’s performing there. The part that’s so delightfully hokey: the boys belt out their hits with musical instruments made of styrofoam. She proceeds to copy them, carving a guitar Jimmy Hendrix would be proud of.

Impressionable and tenacious at the same time, Dhunu reads a comic book and decides she wants to form a band playing real instruments. Rupee by rupee, she begins to save for an electric guitar. She reads an article in a scrap newspaper and decides that positive...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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