Fantastic Fest Review: Jallikattu

Buffalo hunt is a deceptive cover for a brilliant political allegory

The plot of Jallikattu is deceptively simple: When a water buffalo breaks loose from its pen and stampedes across town, it sparks a panic among the villagers.

As coalitions slowly form among the villagers– some want shoot the animal on sight, others want the prestige of taking it home alive – the pent-up frustrations they feel toward their neighbors and officials begin to overtake them.

Initially, Jallikattu exudes harmony. The film opens on the closed eyes and steady breathing of the villagers at the beginning of a new day. We watch as these people – contained within a percussive and extended edit – wake up and begin their daily integration into society. The music never changes. Beat. Breakfast. Beat. Butcher. Beat. Argument. Beat. Laugh. In this dynamic opening sequence, Pellissery conveys through sound and image the various ways his villagers intersect and connect.

There are also scenes in this film that remind us why we love practical effects: villagers as far as the eye can see, descending the hillside and lit only by the torches and flashlights they carry in their hands. If you’re not thinking about early Soviet cinema during the film’s showy montages, the sweeping hordes of extras running across the countryside will probably do the trick. And as Jallikattu progresses, the order of the village slowly dissolves into chaos and bloodshed.

The challenge for the audience is to simply keep up. Jallikattu is such sensory overload – containing so many crowded images and rhythmic cuts – that we almost need a little distance to fully appreciate with the filmmakers have pulled off. Our memories allow storylines to converge and patterns to be revealed; what seems like little more than glorious chaos proves itself to be orderly with a little bit of hindsight. If only more filmmakers could match form to politics with this degree of skill.


Jallikattu

U.S. Premiere
Mon., Sept. 23, 8:15pm

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Matthew Monagle
New Nonprofit Plans to Bring Back Austin’s Video Rental Culture
New Nonprofit Plans to Bring Back Austin’s Video Rental Culture
We (still) Luv Video

Oct. 28, 2022

Slash/Back
Smart Canadian horror sets Indigenous teens against alien invaders

Oct. 21, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Fantastic Fest, Fantastic Fest 2019, Jallikattu

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle