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Making IFFI more delegate-friendly

As Goa prepares for the 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), and the 16th year in the state, there still  remain some key issues that need to be addressed

SACHIN CHATTE

The 50th anniversary of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) is around the corner. This is also the 16th year that the festival, which happens to be the oldest in Asia, will be held in Goa. But relatively new festivals like Busan in Korea, which is in its 24th year, have surged far ahead. Even China’s Pingyao International Film Festival, has gained tremendous traction in just two years.

But even with so much past experience, there are basic issues that have been ignored at IFFI. It may be the 16th year in Goa, but when it comes to the government and bureaucracy, it is one year’s experience, repeated 16 times. As a delegate, not much has changed in terms of facilities and experience, and here are some issues that need to be addressed.

Ticketing and entry

Even though it was highlighted time and again that the entry system of delegates was flawed, the organisers turned a blind eye to it. How can, say, 500 ticket holders enter the Kala Academy auditorium in 20 minutes, after the usual rigmarole of being patted down, having their bags examined and water bottles confiscated? Worse is the fate of non ticket holder – they can enter only ten minutes before the screening, and if there are a hundred people ahead of you, good luck getting inside before the film starts. So you have empty seats inside, a restless audience outside and an impractical system in the middle. This has led to major chaos time and again, but last year it got out of hand.

Also, in a completely bizarre move, it was decided to ‘penalise’ delegates if they book a ticket and don’t show up. Now a delegate may not turn up for a variety of reasons but for all practical purposes, it doesn’t make a difference, someone without a ticket will take his seat. But no, the delegate, presumably for whom those crores of rupees are spent in organising the festival, should be the first person to get the short end of the stick. The idea was listed but, thankfully, couldn’t be implemented last year. But it’s back on the IFFI website again this year. It is easy to come up with ideas like these because the organisers are not film enthusiasts themselves and so it doesn’t affect them.

Food and amenities

It happens only at IFFI and in Goa, where beer has been consistently cheaper than a cup of tea at the venue. Last year, beer was sold for `50 while a cup of tea cost `100 and this is not the first time it has happened. Yours truly had written about it in this paper back in 2010. But why would the organisers care? After all, they don’t eat or drink at the venue, it is the poor delegate who has to search for reasonably priced sustenance in the short intervals between films.

After spending approximately `15 crores every year on the festival, if food cannot be made available at an affordable price, it only shows the lackadaisical attitude of the organisers.

And let us not even talk about promoting local cuisine – you have a better chance of locating the Vikram lander on the moon than finding a decent fish thali at the IFFI venue. We know official delegations from India have visited Cannes and other places to learn from them. We would recommend that they visit the Mumbai or Bengaluru International Film Festivals first, to see how food is sold for `50 and `100 inside the venue to keep the delegates happy.

In all these 15 years, not once has this aspect been looked into. For a couple of years, local self-help groups were allowed to set up food stalls, and they were a big hit among all the delegates. But for reasons of ‘hygiene’ they were never given an opportunity again. Well, at least we could see what exactly they were doing, and we had a choice. And the food was very tasty.

Opening and
Closing ceremony

Last year `4.5 crores were spent for the opening and closing ceremonies and, incidentally, it was the dullest we have seen in ages; at the opening, the guest singer was egging the crowd on to sing Aaj jaane ki zid na karo, truly one of the most melancholy ghazals. This year apparently the figure is almost pushing `6 crores. Comparatively speaking, the budget of the Kerala and Bengaluru film festival is less than what IFFI spends on the opening and closing ceremonies; Mumbai spends a little more than that and all the three festivals have more screens than IFFI.

But the most ironical part is that, after spending that kind of money, and the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee venue being so big, delegates are not invited for either of the ceremonies at IFFI. You have to know someone influential to get an invitation, being a registered delegate is not enough.

The problem lies with the fact that unless one is aware of the ground reality or experiences it first hand, there is no way you can make sweeping changes. The ironical fact is that they are not all that hard to fix. All it lacks is the will, dedication and passion to do the job right.

I had written that para in 2010 and it gives me no pleasure in repeating the exact words nine years later as nothing has changed on some counts.

There have been some positive changes which we will look at in a follow up piece.

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