Mumbai: Thailand's 'Manta Ray,' India's 'Bulbul Can Sing' Win Festival's Top Awards

Bulbul Can Sing Still 2 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of TIFF

The 20th edition of the Indian event honored Darren Aronofsky with an excellence in cinema award.

The 20th edition of the Mumbai Film Festival culminated Thursday with an awards ceremony that saw Thai cinematographer-turned-director Phuttiphong Aroonpheng's Manta Ray winning the Golden Gateway award for best film in the international competition category.

Manta Ray is set against the backdrop of the Rohingya refugee crisis in Burma, the drama premiered at Venice earlier this year, where it won the Orizzonti/Horizon Prize for best film.

Indian director Rima Das' Bulbul Can Sing, which premiered at Toronto, won the Golden Gateway award in the India Gold section, giving her back-to-back wins. Her previous film, Village Rockstars, picked up the same prize last year and is India's entry this year in the foreign-language Oscar race. A visibly moved Das dedicated her award to her mother, who was also with her onstage.

Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky was honored with an excellence in cinema award. “I've been to Mumbai a few times, and it is always completely insane, more insane than New York City,” the Aronofsky said to a standing ovation from the festival audience. “It has incredible people and incredible food, and it is one of the great fountains of movies in the world. And so, to get this honor in Mumbai means a lot.”

Earlier in the week, Aronofsky conducted a master class at the fest.

The international section's grand jury prize went to The Island of Hungry Ghosts by Gabrielle Brady; the Silver Gateway award went to Marcelo Martinesse's The Heiress, which is Paraguay's submission for consideration in the foreign-language Oscar category; and Iranian director Alireza Motamedi's Reza received a special jury mention.

The international jury was headed by Sean Baker (The Florida Project). Fellow jurors included Thom Noble, Oscar-winning editor for Witness; Jacqueline Lyanga, former AFI Fest director and current guest director of the VR and immersive storytelling showcase at the LA Film Festival; and Indian filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj.

The India Gold section's grand jury prize went to Kabir Singh Chowdhry's mockumentary Mehsampur, while the Silver Gateway award was a tie between Ridham Janve's The Gold Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain and Aditya Vikram Sengupta's Jonaki.

The festival's gender equality award, presented in association with Oxfam, was won by Ivan Ayr's Soni, based around two female police officers in India's capital Delhi, while Jonaki received a special jury mention, as did Vasanth S Sai's Sivaranjani and Two Other Women.

The fest gave a special tribute to the late Indian actress Sridevi, whose career spanned Bollywood and south Indian cinema with hit titles such as Mr. India and Chandni. Sridevi died in February at age 54.

The Mumbai Film Festival is presented by telecom giant Reliance Jio in association with Fox's Star India network.