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Poor Micromanaging at IFFI

Is the International Film Festival of India one of the worst run film festivals internationally? Perhaps not. But it must surely be somewhere right at the bottom of the heap.

The sheer refusal to learn from previous blunders would suggest a cussed approach, and to amplify or repeat them year after year suggests an embedded cavalier attitude.

Why can’t they get the basics right, this entire army of government officials, making merry on taxpayer’s money?

SCHEDULE: Why can’t the festival schedule be released ten days in advance? Check their website today – the schedule for the “second phase” from November 26 to November 30 is yet to be posted online. Yet, the ticket bookings for November 26 have not just commenced; several scheduled films have no seats left!

Every year, we struggle to have the schedule with us in advance. Every year!

It is not rocket science, is it? If you’re sending the schedule to the printer, why can’t you post it online too? Why not tweet the URL? Why not tweet or SMS any changes to the schedule? Is the film fest delegate just a necessary evil being tolerated by the organisers?

FESTIVAL BROCHURE: Even before posting the schedule in advance, why can’t an e-Brochure be uploaded? If printed copies can be distributed two days before the festival, why not upload a PDF the day it is sent to the printer, a week in advance. Allow us to browse, select the films we want to watch, and plan our schedules.

(It may even be a good idea to altogether phase out the costly brochure, printed on expensive paper. Have the smaller booklet with synopses for delegate reference).

At least now, upload the e brochure for this year!

TUSSLE FOR SEATS: The total capacity across all venues is less than 2500 seats. Proud organisers announced the registration of 14,000 to 15,000 delegates this year. Do the math yourself!

Of the 2500 seats, perhaps less than 50 per cent are offered to general delegates, after allocating quotas for the press, the sarkari babus, the organisers and members of their multiple committees, film fest invitees (participating film teams, celebs and assorted dignitaries) and ego appeasement of local netas/officers and suchlike.

The best seats are invariably reserved for them. Online seat bookings offer either the first few rows, or the extreme corners of other rows. Try booking centre seats in any of the last ten rows. Not even offered as an option.

Online bookings open at 8 a.m. with less than 40 seats offered for some films, for the several thousand delegates. Today, for instance, at 8:07 a.m., the message flashed for two screenings: sorry, all seats booked, no ticket available.

Way out: Either expand the seating capacity, or reduce the number of delegates.

The Goa Government and IFFI can hire all the local cinema halls in Panaji and offer more seats to visiting delegates. Hire cinema halls in Mapusa, Vasco and Margao. Use screens available at government academies and Ravindra Bhavans to offer seats to locals and visitors to decongest the INOX venue. Do this in addition to the few open air screenings, not instead of.

Work with cinema hall owners and government agencies to upgrade facilities at the auditorium. Start the process now, to get it all ready for next year.

PROGRAMMING: Reduce the number of films programmed. Define the sections better. Reduce/eliminate some. Program less films in some.

SCREENINGS: Have at least three screenings of all new or significant films, anticipate delegate demand and do the programming accordingly. It is just plain stupid to spend our money procuring an international or Indian filmmaker’s work, and then have a screening or two, offering a couple of hundred seats in the Inox or Maquinez Palace venues for 15K delegates!

POST FESTIVAL SCREENINGS FOR LOCALS: At least in venues under their direct control, like Kala Academy and Maquinez Palace, select a package to screen as repeats for three to four additional days – IFFI award-winners, Indian Panorama, a key Retrospective repeated, Konkani/Marathi cinema or Indian Premieres.

The festival team has some good people both at IFFI and at ESG. But it is the overall approach, the lack of foresight, cavalier attitude and inattention to detail that mars the festival experience for the delegates.

Perhaps this write up will offend some of the organisers. Maybe I’ll never get invited to the opening, closing, festival events and parties. But guess what; in the five years that I have by now lived in Goa, I’ve never been invited even once, sometimes to the utter surprise of my friends from international film fests or visiting filmmakers. And yes, they have invited me twice to be on their discussion panels during the film fest, so they know I exist and live rather close to the main venues!

Have they ever invited me for a pre-film fest meeting? No. After all, what can I offer as a filmmaker, with a dozen plus international awards, film fest attendance in each continent and several friends who’re film fest directors and programmers?

I still write this, in the hope that IFFI Goa will someday turn into a professionally run film fest, allowing filmmakers and film lovers a serious space to revel in the magic of cinema.

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