Programming the opening night of a film festival must make for a tricky task. Whatever the remit of the festival proper, programmers tend to feel compelled to put a warm-hearted crowd-pleaser in front of the audience on the first night, which tends to attract a positive-but-underwhelmed critical reaction more often than not (with some exceptions: the excellent Mystery Road kicked off Sydney last year). Arthouse-oriented BAPFF didn’t deviate with its selection of Crow’s Egg, an intended crowd-pleaser that’s not particularly crowd nor critic pleasing.
It’s not a total wash. This Indian production is clearly trying to emulate the success of Slumdog Millionaire, splitting the difference between the realist depiction of poverty and classism of Siddharth and the slick extravagance of Bollywood. Intermittently, it succeeds – its child stars are charming, if bestowed with implausibly white teeth for a pair living in a slum, and its anti-classism, anti-corruption subtext is fine, if obvious. But it aims for the cheap seats and misses the mark, relying on cheap pathos and broad humour that elicited few laughs from a dense crowd. Formally it’s a disappointment, unimaginatively shot, poorly acted and marred by an overloud electronic score. Hopefully not a representative introduction to the festival.