The closing day of this festival held in India’s largest district proved to be a memorable climax. After a day full of screenings and other activities, the award ceremony after sunset was splendid. Infused with cultural song and folk dance, the concluding event was shepherded by festival programmer Hannah Fisher and LIFF founder Melwyn Williams.
Earlier, in the afternoon, a session was conducted in order to understand the role a woman plays in cinema - including those in the struggling Ladakhi film industry. The talk was attended by Aparna Sen, Teri McLuhan, Dechan Phyang - one of the two female Ladakhi filmmakers around - and Fisher herself. What resulted between the four was an interesting mix of cultural distinctions. Aparna, despite the altitude sickness, was the most impressive. “There were times when I wish I had a wife to take care of the domestic chores,” quipped the jury chairman.
In the evening, she, along with co-jurors - Canadian filmmaker Terry McLuhan, Sri Lankan director Vimukthi Jayasundara and German documentary-maker Paul Smaczny - was ready with the winners’ list. Abhinav Shiv Tiwari’s Oass won the Best Feature Film as well as the Best Screenplay. It also bagged the Best Actress Award for Divya Chhetri. Manju Patra Borah won the Best Director Award for Ko:Yad.
A Nepalese documentary titled Who will be a Gurkha by Kesang Tsepan won in its category. Abhilash Vijayan’s Dwand won the Best Short Film. La Bella Vista, a Uruguayan film received a special mention and so did the Indo-French documentary Behind the Mirror. The Swedish-Bulgarian production Tzvetanka won the Best Cinematography Award.
A majority of the Bollywood celebrities had left for Mumbai even before the closing ceremony could take place. Nevertheless, the acclaimed Malayalam filmmaker Shaji N Karun was on the stage handing out prizes along with the jury. Interestingly enough, his next project will be shot extensively in Ladakh.
“I was scouting for this particular location four years ago but nothing fell in place. Finally, things are in order and the film will happen,” added the National Award-winning filmmaker. A fitting tribute to a place meant to inspire the visual medium. And a two-year-old film festival, despite its lows, shared moments of high cinematic value.