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IFFI at 50: A mixed bag

The 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India comes to an end after eight days of movies and more movies. There were a lot of expectations since it was the golden jubilee of the oldest festival in Asia and effectively, it was a mixed bag.

Usually, there is little fault that one can find with the film selection at IFFI, particularly with world cinema. This year, there were a lot of films from yore that were also screened, including classics like ‘Gone With The Wind’, ‘Sound of Music’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (which was shown a couple of years back as well). IFFI did a coup in getting two big films from the festival circuit this time – the Palme d’Or winner ‘Parasite’ and ‘Portrait of a lady on fire’ (Best Screenplay at Cannes).

What IFFI seriously lacks is premieres of quality Indian films – Indian Panorama is not a patch of what it used to be and many of the films showcased have already had a theatrical release –‘Hellaro’ (by virtue of being the Swarna Kama winner) ‘Jallikattu’, ‘Jyeshthputro’ is a case in point. ‘Jallikattu’, in fact, is also in the competition section.

Just for the record, all the prestigious and big festivals around the world only have premieres – at IFFI, unfortunately, even Indian films don’t really have a premiere – not the anticipated ones at least, which is a shame because this is India’s premier film festival. The Mumbai International Film Festival popularly known as MAMI gets the best crop of Indian films, particularly premieres. A couple of years back, Derek Malcolm, the internationally renowned film critic who is an old hand at India told me that in the 80’s he used to look forward to the Indian Panorama to catch the best of Indian cinema but that is not the case anymore.

Barring the Indian section, there isn’t a lot to groan about as far as film selection goes.

The new entry system adopted though is a matter of grave concern, which left a lot of delegates in a state of agitation and panic. From this year, the ticketing at IFFI has gone paperless, which is a very good idea – from the environment point of view and otherwise too. The delegate entry system though left a lot to be desired leaving most of the delegates upset since there was no ‘rush line’ which is primarily a standby line in case the seats are not filled up.

The purpose of any film festival is to showcase the best of cinema and also to ensure that the attendees get to watch it in the most congenial manner. Never before have I seen so many people have a breakdown because of the insensitivity shown by the organisers. There was an instance, where there were 50-60 empty seats at Kala Academy but about 15-20 people who wanted to come in were not allowed because they had exceeded their quota of films. This is akin to the Food Corporation of India wasting stored grains (8000 tons in 2016-17) while millions go hungry. While that is a criminal wastage, it is also silly to have empty seats in the theatre but not allow delegates to watch films. Let’s hope that better sense prevails next time.

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