Director, Directorate of Film Festival, Shankar Mohan responds to issues raised by Manoj Srivastava, former CEO, Entertainment Society of Goa, (NT Panorama, Nov 23, 2014)about organising and programming of the International Film Festival of India. He says a paradigm shift in the annual film festival has taken place since 2011
By Ramnath N Pai Raikar | NT NETWORK
Former CEO of the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), Manoj Srivastava has raised certain issues on the organisational as well as programming aspects of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Comment.
The issues show ignorance about the content as well as intention of this film festival organised by the Government of India. IFFI is fully sponsored by Central as well as State governments, and benefits film professionals as well as young filmmakers. Therefore, the government is not too keen on finding sponsors. If we had desired them, then we could have got them fifty years ago when the festival began its successful journey.
Has the festival improved over the years, especially as there was a talk of the festival undergoing a paradigm shift?
There is indeed a paradigm shift in IFFI since 2011. One, the competition in the film festival expanded from the Asian to the international section. Secondly, the award money has been raised to a whopping Rs 90 lakh, also the Lifetime Achievement Award has been re-introduced. Furthermore, we have introduced a section for students’ films, for the first time. And then there is inclusion of the people of Panaji in the festival, who are not delegates, by way of open-air screening of prominent movies at Campal. I would also like to mention that in the past we had a special section on films with football as their theme since Goans are passionate about football. That particular year, the person who has made these allegations was at the helm of IFFI affairs from the ESG side and had dismally failed to give adequate publicity to this section.
It was also suggested that this year IFFI should have included James Bond films in commemoration of 50 years of the British spy arriving on the silver screen, besides films relating to the Titanic tragedy, as the ship had sunk exactly 100 years ago, and movies showcasing Rock and Roll to commemorate the centenary of this dance form.
Such suggestions show that Srivastava is oblivious of the nature and purpose of IFFI. I am truly glad that the gentleman stands totally exposed about his lack of knowledge about the film festival, in spite of the fact that he handled it for a couple of years from the state side. And that is a shocking revelation. IFFI, as a rule, screens outstanding, contemporary world cinemas, which have been awarded internationally, and given due recognition at major film festivals around the globe. The festival is not a platform for screening films that are easily available in the normal theatrical circuit, as well those as telecast on television. We try to show the best of films, films that are rarely available for viewing, and delegates enjoy these immensely.
Questions have also been raised about the selection process of films for the IFFI in general, and for the Indian Panorama, in particular…
Each person thinks about others in the way that he would himself operate. There do exist people who are transparent and committed to good cinema. The selection of Indian Panorama films is done by jury members, and this year the panel was headed by noted cinematographer-filmmaker, A K Bir. The names of the jury members have also been announced well in advance. Bir had made it clear to the media that the emphasis on selection of the films was not based on language and region, but exclusivity of content, aesthetics and artistic interpretation. This year, the jury members selected a few extra Malayalam films based on the same criteria. Some years ago, the selected films saw a domination of Marathi films. Yet another year, there were more Bengali films in Indian Panorama. In fact, members of the Indian Panorama jury as well as IFFI film preview committee are in Goa and can be contacted for any clarification.
How has IFFI managed to rise this year as compared to that last year?
This year we have managed to get 28 Academy Award nominated films, while 20 Asian and world films will premiere at the film festival. And the 15 films in the Competition Section are simply brilliant. We have also managed to unearth the nearly vanished film by Gulzar – ‘Libaas’ – which opened the Retrospective Section that was dedicated to him. The selection of films, in fact, is done in a very painstaking manner. To make casual comments on the programming and film selection at the IFFI indicates complete lack of knowledge on the matter, especially in a film festival of such a grand magnitude.
Finally, would you tell us when Goa will be the Cannes of the East?
We have no aspirations to convert Goa into Cannes. We have our own set up, goals and objectives, with which IFFI began its journey in 1952, and which we pursue even today. Our motto is to create a platform where the best of international films are screened here, in Goa, and in turn present the best cinema to national and international delegates.