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Posted at: Dec 2, 2018, 1:55 AM; last updated: Dec 2, 2018, 1:55 AM (IST)

IFFI falters, but cinema wins

Hiccups and organisational faux pas apart, the International Film Festival of India at Goa continues to attract cinephiles year after year

Nonika Singh

Without mincing words, let it be stated that the International Film Festival of India, Goa, is certainly not the most well organised festival in the world, or even the country. Hiccups mark most of its goings on. All set to celebrate its golden jubilee next year, IFFI is anything but shining. Universally panned for its falling standards with each passing year, it seems to be nobody’s favourite. Other festivals like MAMI, two decades old, certainly figure higher on the appreciation metre. If big stars from Bollywood and Hollywood are more conspicuous by their absence, the inaugural function, a strange mix of glitter and bureaucratic stronghold, leaves a lot to be desired. Closing is no better. In between, faux pas marks its many interactions.

So Adil Husain, best known for his acting skills, is introduced as director by an official of the Directorate of Film Festivals, which, along with the Entertainment Society of Goa, runs the show. 

In the much-hyped mid-gala screening of the rather complex film Regarding the Case of Joan Arc, the biographic details of director Matthew Wilder are mixed up with those of another person. Indeed, world premiers like this and the opening film Aspern Papers do lend gravitas to the festival, and so do the stars. Yet, stars continue to be stars. Not only does the main attraction of the inaugural day, Akshay Kumar, arrive late, the conversation section — be it with Boney Kapoor and Jhanvi or Kriti Sanon — punctuality is never a virtue.

Contrast this with the Cannes Film Festival. Even big stars like Woody Allen,  Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett never fail to keep their date with the appointed hour.

If last year the festival ‘earned’ its way into the hall of controversy due to the omission of two films, Nude and S Durga, duly selected by the jury, this time, too, it courted  dissension. Ujjwal Chatterjee, who was part of the 13-member jury of Indian Panorama, declared that some anti-national films were not selected, forcing chairperson of the jury Rahul Rawail to respond and defend. Yet, amid the censure and criticism, IFFI continues to draw the crowds and the media. There are veteran journalists, who claim to have attended 48 of the 49 editions of IFFI. So what entices the young and the old alike? In its own way, IFFI democratises the festival culture. While festivals like Cannes are strictly for professionals, IFFI opens its doors to the common people at a minimal fees of Rs 1,000.  

Saliesh Ram, editor of a UK-based website and a regular at international film festivals like Cannes and Toronto, opines that it is easy accessibility to stars that makes him travel all the way from England. A young student from Gwalior couldn’t agree more. Part of the student delegation from his university, he can barely conceal his effusiveness. Apart from watching world cinema, to be able to see stars like Kriti Sanon up close and personal is a dream come true. Indeed, where else can students ask probing questions on the craft of acting to versatile actor Adil Hussain. Or engage in an interface with Shoojit  Sircar on where Varun Dhawan  faltered in October.

Sircar too has good words for IFFI. Going down the memory lane, he realls the days when the festival was held alternately in different cities of the country, including Delhi. He shares how he would sneak into the venue for an exclusive slice of international cinema. IFFI continues to be fuelled by movies from across the world. This year alone the festival opened with Aspern Papers featuring no less than Vanessa Redgrave and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. 

Then there were movies like Zhang Ming’s The Pluto  Moment, Avi Nesher’s The Other Story, Japanese film The Shoplifters and many more. No wonder, Ishmania Dsouza, a Goan of Portuguese descent, watches films from dawn to dusk. Of course, not all those who visit IFFI are diehard film buffs. Renji Lal Damodaran’s Naval Enna Jewel has already won many laurels. His prime focus in Goa is the NFDC Film Bazaar to seek international markets for his film.  Amit Agarwal, who helps organise film festivals at other places, drops by for networking ‘to be seen and see others.’

Somendra Nath Harsh, who conducts the Rajasthan International Film festival back home, comes here each year to select movies for his own home-grown festival.

A finance professional from Bengaluru is simply taken in by the workshops. He says, “Anywhere else in the world, they would charge you hundreds of dollars to enrol in a class like this.”  

Interestingly, Dr J Thulaseedhara Kurup from Thiruvananthapuram insists, “IFFI attracts maximum number of delegates from Kerala. Take them away and the festival would be a flop.” 

Pray why, since the coastal state has its own festival with a large number of films and significant ones at that. A cine enthusiast from Kerala visiting IFFI for the past seven years hits the nail on the head, “The infrastructure is better and the real festival buzz is here.” Often the buzz might sting organisers. Some like this delegate from Kerala might take serious offence when Rajendra Talak, vice-chairperson of the Entertainment Society of Goa, asks him to go back to Kerala when confusion during the screening of Danish crime thriller Guilty turns nasty. But nothing stops viewers from queuing up the next moment or ensuring housefull for films tipped as must see.

For beyond fracas and mismanagement, cinema is the language they understand. As David Lynch says of cinema: “It’s like opening a door and go into a new world.” Or even better, listen to what Frank Capra said, “As with heroin, the antidote to film is more film.”

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