Cinema, Chaos and Confusion at IFFI 2018
By Chitra Ahanthem
The ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) at Goa, which is in its 49th edition this year after a chequered history over the years is seeing a heady mix of cinema, chaos and controversies. Started in 1952 when the film festival was organized by the Films Division, Government of India, it became the first International Film Festival held anywhere in Asia. The 49th edition which is ongoing at Goa, is showcasing 212 films from over 68 countries with 15 hand-picked masterpieces from across the world battling it out for the coveted Golden Peacock for Best Film and other awards. The Country of Focus this year is Isarael with 10 films being showcased at the festival. Additionally, the Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed on the critically acclaimed Israeli director and writer, Dan Wolman.
Also featured in IFFI 2018 is a Retrospective of Masters in which, as part of the 100-year birth commemoration of legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, the Consulate General of Sweden in Mumbai has brought eight of the maestro’s works: Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, Bergman Island, Saraband, Fanny and Alexander, Autumn Sonata, Persona and Summer with Monica. A panel discussion titled ‘Wild at Heart Master in His Craft: Ingmar Bergman with Jannike Ahlund, Journalist Critic and Chair of the Board of Bergman Center Foundation and Consul General of Sweden Ulrika Sundberg moderated by Sunit Tandon, a former Director of the Directorate of Film Festival, India discussed the hallmarks and themes of Bergman’s films and the way he has inspired many film makers over the years, including India’s own Satyajit Ray.
During the course of the discussion, Ulrika Sundberg, Consul General said “Ingmar Bergman is undoubtedly one of the best-known Swedes in the world. He is widely regarded as one of the foremost filmmakers in cinematic history and has directed more than 40 feature-length films. He was also a prolific scriptwriter, dramatist and author.” The panel discussion featured anecdotes from the filmmaker’s life as well as his prolific creative work.
The Indian Panorama section at IFFI this year brings 26 feature and 21 non – feature Indian films are selected by the Indian Panorama Jury to be screened. There were no films in the feature or non feature category from Manipur though a notable representation from the north eastern part of the country was a stall from Arunachal Pradesh to boost tourism to the state. A new section at IFFI this year is ‘State Focus’ highlighting the films of one of the Indian States, in a bid to shed light on the art and culture of that particular state with Jharkhand getting the honours.
Considering that IFFI brings quite a sizeable number of films under its ambit, cine lovers from across the country have descended to Panjim/Panaji, the capital of Goa which is hosting thousands of delegates. However, with limited screening space and space, the gap between demand for film screening tickets and the actual seats available has resulted in chaos and a controversy in the making. On the 3rd day of the film festival, a group of about 20 festival delegates from Kerala who had lined up to watch ‘The Guilty’, a Danish film were turned away despite having tickets. When the irate cinelovers asked to talk to an official, Rajendra Talak, Vice Chairman of Entertainment Society of Goa, which organises IFFI along with Directorate of Film Festival (DFF), told the group to “go back to your home”. Long lines and tussles for entry for film screenings have become an everyday affair at IFFI given the sheer intake of delegates which is not proportionate to the number of seats. Though there are efforts to go the digital way in terms of online bookings, delegates still have to physically validate the online booking.
There has been stringent criticism over the manner in which the Hindi film industry has been given all the attention during the course of the festival. Many balked at the manner in which the inaugural session of the film festival wore the look of an informal chat show with popular Hindi film director and talk show host Karan Johar in attendance. The format of an interaction between Karan Johar and the Chief Guest of the inaugural ceremony, Information and Broadcasting Minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium Information has been panned as also the absence of any women in the jury for the Indian Panorama feature film section. In context of the debates and discussions over the #MeToo movement in India and across the world, the absence of any women in the Jury and the disturbing non challenge and indifference was heightened by the presence of film director Subhas Ghai who has been accused by two women of sexually harassing and violating them.
Subhash Ghai continues to be on the steering committee of IFFI, and not only occupied a prominent seat at the opening ceremony of IFFI on stage but was also a part of the inauguration of a multimedia exhibition ‘The Mahatma On Celluloid’ along with Minister of Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.
The highlight of any film festival is the masterclass sessions as also the panel discussions. While the panel discussions have part been interesting, the speakers at masterclass sessions have mostly been popular actors from the Hindi film industry apart from a few technical sessions on the craft of film making. Given the manner in which film stars from the Hindi film industry are being given prominence during the festival to the manner in which most media representatives are being kept away from interactions with film makers, IFFI is making waves among cinema lovers for matters beyond cinema!
*The writer is a Delegate at IFFI sponsored by the Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS)
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