EarlIer this year, Manipuri cinema awoke to the news that three of their films and one of their actresses had won the prestigious National Awards. This month, as Manipur celebrates four decades of its own cinema, a celebration is in order. On April 15, the region will play host to the first Imphal International Short Film Festival (IISFF), a four-day affair that will introduce international films to the region.
“Our mission is to show people the wonder of regional cinema, particularly in this form of filmmaking,” says Mohen Naorem, the festival director. In the last 10 years, ever since the ban on Hindi films in the area, filmmakers in the region have taken on the role of providing entertainment to the masses. Armed with the most basic digicams and handycams, they churn out 60-70 issue-based films every year, most of which focus on the insurgency.
The long-term goal of the IISFF, however, is to get more Manipuri filmmakers hooked to this form of cinema so that they participate in larger numbers in the next edition of the festival. This year, of the 60-odd Indian films (42 have been shortlisted) participating in the festival, just four are from Manipur and one from Assam; a surprisingly large number of entries are from south India. “We hope that by introducing filmmakers to short films from across the country and the world, they will be compelled and inspired enough to make their own,” says Naorem.
IISFF has already received over a 100 entries, with films pouring in from Spain, Italy, Iran, Poland, Bangladesh and Pakistan. While international films aren’t banned in Manipur, they find very few takers and cinema halls prefer to cater to the more popular regional films. Naorem however is confident that the public that is unable to watch international films will come out to watch these films.
The beauty of IISFF lies in it being a festival that caters to a different format and an alternate media of filmmaking. “How many festivals are dedicated to short films?” asks Naorem. “Here, we are even giving away nine awards — best film, best direction, best screenplay, best actress, best actor, best cinematography, best editing, best musical score — and have three Special Mentions.”