It’s that time of the year when the Indian film fraternity kicks off its shoes, dons flip-flops and heads to the beaches of Goa. For filmmakers, current and future, as well as cinema aficionados. The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) is the place to be between November 20 and 30.
“To showcase the journey of films over the last century, we have curated a rare section of films — 26 feature films and 56 documentaries — that are being presented for the first time,” says festival director Shankar Mohan. Films in the Indian Panorama section feature stories from all across India in regional languages. Debutant filmmaker’s KP Suveeran’s Byari, which won the National Award in 2011, is the first film in the language of the same name. “Everytime I have attended the IFFI in the past, I always had a dream that one day my film would be shown here,” says Suveeran. “I’m excited and happy about Byari being showcased on this platform.” The film looks at the customs and traditions of marriage, divorce and remarriage of the Byari community in Karnataka.
“The entire Indian film fraternity congregates in Goa for IFFI,” says Mohan. “It’s a platform to meet friends as well as new people and make new contacts.” An aspect that director Jahnu Barua thoroughly enjoys the process. “I get to meet friends, relax with them, see where I stand as a filmmaker and see what’s happening in world cinema,” he says. Barua’s film, Baandhon, is an Assamese film about a couple that comes to Mumbai to look for their grandson in the wake of the 26/11 attacks.
As a celebration of Indian cinema, the festival emphasises content with an Indian connection. The lifetime achievement award recipient, Krzysztof Zanussi, is an eminent filmmaker from Poland who has emotional roots in India. “He has been to the country several times and is passionate about India,” says Mohan. “This is our way of honouring him and his contribution to cinema.” The opening and closing films of the festival also reflect this Indian link. “Life of Pi, which was shot in Pondicherry, features many Indian actors,” Mohan elaborates. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist has been directed by Mira Nair, one of the finest Indian filmmakers. They are global films. We’re celebrating Indian cinema but we’d also like to emphasise that the world is one family.”
The festival will also highlight the technological advances that have emerged in cinema through various workshops and seminars. “Cinema is such a technology-driven medium,” says Mohan. “It’s 50 per cent technology and 50 per cent creativity.” The festival also features a wide range of vintage films to demonstrate where we started from and where we are today. “It’s important to stay connected to our cinematic roots,” believes Mohan.
For director Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, preservation of the cinematic cultural heritage is another important factor that he highlights through his film Celluloid Man. It features PK Nair, the founder of the National Film Archive of India, who was responsible for archiving films in the country. The filmmaker wanted to highlight Nair’s legacy, bring his contribution to the limelight and pay tribute to him. “After watching my film, I would like people to think about preservation more seriously,” says Dungarpur. “What motivated me to make this film was my love for preserving a part of India’s cultural heritage. What is lost is lost, what is there must be saved.”