IFFI: A disconnect between DFF & ESG

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
26 December 2009 19:16 IST

What's IFFI? Just not an International Film Festival of India. It's a Reality cinema. It's a Creative cinema. It's an Experimental cinema. It's obviously not the commercial glamorous cinema of Bollywood or Hollywood, which normally gambles at the Box Office. No wonder a Bollywood super star like Shahrukh Khan, when once invited to inaugurate one IFFI in Goa, was feeling awkward to speak before the cine legends from all over the world. He considered himself to be a very small person in front of them.

The DFF - Directorate of Film Festivals - knows what IFFI is. They select the world cinema - the best among all - as well as the national cinema, especially the regional ones produced in different regional languages of India. These movies sometimes run houseful only in the states like West Bengal or Kerala, which have a film culture. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Adoor Gopalkrishnan, M S Sathyu, Shyam Benegal, Dr Jabbar Patel are the real celebrities for them. Not Chiranjivis, Shahrukhs or Kathrina Kaifs...

That doesn't mean IFFI is the best festival in India. In fact it's not. That's the reason union minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni has set up an experts' committee to rejuvenate India's premier international film fest. Film legends like Govind Nihlani, Shabana Azmi, Kamal Hassan, Nandita Das, Kishwar Desai and our own Goenkar Laxmikant Shetgaonkar are among the members of this committee. They want to make IFFI a competitor with Cannes, Berlin, Toronto etc etc. In fact many film personalities have been complaining of not selecting good world cinema, but Bollywoodising  the IFFI.

For these film legends, Bollywoodisation is a negative point of IFFI. But for the ESG - Entertainment Society of Goa, it's the most positive point. DFF speaks of reality, but ESG has ‘entertainment' in its name itself. It's a total disconnect between the concept DFF wants to promote and the ESG wants to display. This is not my opinion. As a journalist, for the last five years, I have been speaking to many film legends. They share a common concern, of Goa not understanding the basic concept of IFFI. For two reasons, they are happy with Goa as a permanent IFFI venue. One, it was pulled out from the hands of Delhi babus. Two, it's an excellent location to have a film festival. But, unfortunately, IFFI that was pulled out from babus is becoming a toy in the hands of local politicians and entertainers.

When it started during Manohar Parrikar's tenure, IFFI was converted into a grand cultural roadshow and beach dhamaka. Parrikar even went to the extent of announcing that Goa would be made a ‘hub of entertainment'. He built IFFI by burying our Black Box - one of the best theatre India had. Thanks to those who finally understood the mistake they were committing, IFFI has now been focussed on the film activities going on at Inox and Kala Academy. The tamasha is vanishing slowly, but sadly, not fully.

I personally have a great respect  for Francisco Martins, for his creativity and visualisation power. But the stalls and umbrellas at Inox and on the roadside he put up this year - with the photo prints of Hollywood and Bollywood stars as well as Goan tiatrists - was enough proof that Fankit was not briefed properly what IFFI is about.  We need to project the real celebrities through creative eyes of artists like Fankit. But it didn't happen, simply because of this disconnect.

Similar is the case of Red Carpet event. It's a nice event, if organised with a basic concept of IFFI. If the concept was understood well, our own prestigious Toronto award winner Laxmikant Shetgaonkar and director and main actor of Oscar-nominated ‘Harishchandrachi Factory' would have not been humiliated at the screening as well as on the red carpet.  I am not blaming any individuals here, but the mistaken conceptualisation of IFFI. It needs to be understood well, while providing logistical support on behalf of the ESG.

The best example is the musical shows organised in the Inox courtyard every evening. There were good singers, but at a wrong place. Hardly any delegate was listening to them.  It was an irritation for them, since they could not discuss the films. It appeared that ESG was allergic to informal discussions. They even failed to organise post-film discussions with the directors in the theatre, with rare exceptions. Contrary to this, the delegates feel that Inox courtyard should be filled with more chairs and tables for informal chit-chats. Even IFFI should restart the Masters' Classes and Technical sessions once again, which were going overfull three years ago with students from all over attending it with great enthusiasm. Is this the reason why thousands of passes were not even lifted by the delegates this year?

Yet another observation made by quite a few learned delegates. While DFF proposes the IFFI programme and the ESG organises it, the ESG appears to be trying to score over the DFF by adding its own programmes, thereby neglecting the basic organising work of IFFI. T20 was one such event, which was not at all necessary to be concentrated upon. Similar is the case with the Short Film Centre. The concept is nice, they say, but IFFI is not the time to organise it. The short film makers had hardly any audience even in the 40-seater Maqueniz Palace theatre. The Goan Celluloid is yet another exercise, which has nothing to do with the basic concept of IFFI. Was it a politically  accommodative exercise or the film-scheme lifting trick is still a question.

It's not that the ESG is completely bad. But the short filmmakers asked why they don't organise a special Short Film Festival and announce the Vasudha Awards at some other time? Why not a separate Goan film festival? Why not have more festivals like the Marathi film festival or the Asian film festival, like a regional film festival or animation film festival? Why not more such activities from IFFI to IFFI, rather than concentrating everthing - and practically everything - only at IFFI and receive criticism from everybody for organisational lapses at various levels?

In short, ESG requires a complete overhaul. I spoke to many film legends like Shyam Benegal, M S Sathyu, Dr Jabbar Patel etc etc in the last five years. They had valuable suggestions to make. The best among it I liked was to make Goa a "hub of Multimedia and not a hub of mere entertainment". Goa government can at least now begin the process by changing its name from ESG to the Multimedia Soceity of Goa, providing a definite focus. It could then organise festivals of all the components of a film -  theatre, music, dance, Painting, Animation, Technical Art etc etc. It could organise film-related workshops. It could concentrate more on promoting Film Soceities in several talukas and even colleges and schools while supplying them good films and projectors - an important exercise to create film culture. I remember Mr Sathyu suggesting to start a Cine Academy and take ahead the theatre movement through Kala Academy's now nearly defunct Theatre Art Faculty. Shyam Benegal had even suggested that a film-making educational syllabus could be introduced from school to university level by mobilising the best artistic talent available in Goa. We have been only making statements that Goa is a hub of art. Utilising IFFI, we can actually create one.

IFFI could be seen as an opportunity to exploit all the cultural talent Goa is having. In  short, we should not merely exploit Goa for IFFI by making our artists entertaining the world, we could make use of IFFI for Goa. It should not be GOA FOR IFFI, it should be IFFI FOR GOA.

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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