Cinequest 2024 – And Cut!

Set in the heart of the Indian Film Industry, a tiny new film production house in Mumbai navigates everyday challenges while struggling under the leadership of an eccentric director and a sharp-tongued, openly gay producer. All, while being filmed by a documentary crew.

Starring Akash Arora,Nitya Mathur,Riddhi Kumar,Aakash Ahuja,Girish Sharma

At 30 minutes long, And Cut! is an unexpectedly long “short” film for Cinequest. Most shorts are grouped in themed programs where a half-dozen are show under groups of comedies, thrillers, and other genre favorite categories. And Cut! led the smaller group of paradoxically longer shorts called Laughs, Thrills, The Past, and the Future. It’s unfortunate that shorts at Cinequest are not repeated during the live showings. But Cinequest’s streaming sibling, Cinejoy, gives you the opportunity to check out this fine comedy any time you like through the end of the month.

And I recommend you do exactly that.

And Cut! is a series pilot shot in the “fictionalized reality TV format” popularized in the UK by the original sitcom The Office by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais. That show was later reinvented in the US TV show of the same name. And since then the mocumentary has become a wildly popular storytelling method used by many sitcoms.

Aside from being the show’s title, And Cut! is the name of the fictional fledgling film production company in the pilot. This setup is brilliant. As a film production service they will face a wide variety of projects for hire. The stories that can be developed around the premise is almost limitless, as is the documentary framing. It gets meta fast and can go deep. Personally I hope for a Bollywood musical episode (as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scrubs, and Star Trek Strange New Worlds to name a few) or an episode where the crew is hired to film a reality TV show, while continuing being filmed themselves.

Note: This is just me fanboying, I don’t have any insights into additional scripts. Let’s get back to the regularly scheduled review.

The real-life producers, actors and crew deserve additional credit as the format stays authentic. It helps smaller production houses that this style is very inexpensive to produce. The focus on story and character development is sharp. The actors and crew have excellent comedic timing, and create ‘heart’ through a number of empathetic situations. Everyone is flawed in different ways, and there’s a lot of potential for conflict and growth here. It helps that these are folks the audience can root for flaws and all.

This is also a great opportunity for audiences outside of Southern Asia to learn about a variety of cultures. The cast is quite diverse, coming from distinctly different areas and backgrounds, so it’s natural that they don’t always see eye-to-eye. Again, the potential for many years of stories is great. If it sounds like I’m making a pitch for a studio or network to pick this project up and fund it, well… yeah I guess I am. I do want to see more.

Avoiding spoilers I can say that the pilot episode stands solidly on it’s own. It is definitely a company just beginning to find it’s footing. The leader has big dreams that are solidly on the edge of impractical. The office manager wishes for a title with more status. The producer is constantly undermined by people who don’t take her as seriously as they should. The intern is probably the most competent while still dealing with self-doubt. Again, there’s so much potential here.

Yes, it’s subtitled, but the dialog is mostly English, occasionally sliding into Hindi. I did enjoy parsing the situations where discussing a western concept or product causes the shift in language, and emotional situations slip back into Hindi – it felt authentic from business interactions I’ve had. I really don’t want to see a fully dubbed version at all. Your mileage may vary of course, but it’s worth giving a chance even if you avoid subtitled films.

If you’re a fan of The Office, Parks and Recreation, or even movies like Best in Show or This is Spinal Tap, or just want to expose yourslef to a new cultural experience, you owe it to yourself to seek out And Cut! There’s a very good chance you’ll gain the bragging rights to say “I saw the original promo of that!”

We’re past the live screening of And Cut! but you can still watch it online through Cinejoy.

Ric Bretschneider
March 15, 2024
San Jose, California

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