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An IFFI of Many Firsts

The 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which took place from November 20 to 28 in the beach state of Goa certainly left a mark, for numerous reasons.

It commenced with the handing over of the festival management baton to the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) a little over two months ahead of the festival and the appointment of Sunit Tandon as the festival Director of IFFI 2017.

This was fortified by the appointment of film industry professionals who constituted the Steering Committee, Technical Committee and the Preview Committees. Noted names like Siddharth Roy Kapur, Vani Tripathi Tikoo, Bharatbala, Anand Gandhi, Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Jahnu Barua, Rahul Rawail, Nagesh Kukunoor, Shaji Karun, Bhaskar Hazarika and Pradip Kubrah, among many others, formed these committees, with an extremely hands-on approach, working towards creating a festival to be remembered.

The highlight of IFFI 2017 perhaps was the fact that the festival took on a new vision, one geared towards celebrating the future of cinema, which was evident in its programming narrative. What made the festival stand apart was the selection of films, presenting truly the best of international and Indian cinema.

The IFFI 2017 programme was commendable, especially pulling off a considerable number of premieres, country Oscar nomination titles, ratio of women filmmakers represented and international guests in attendance, this given the fact that another well-established film festival in India had just concluded before this and had also presented a stellar line-up of films and talent representations.

Kudos to IFFI 2017, for being able to present over 195 films of quality, with over 82 countries being represented. The festival presented over 64 India premieres, over 10 world premieres and multiple Asian and international premieres.

The festival opened with the much talked-about Majid Majidi new feature Beyond The Clouds and closed with Pablo Cesar’s Thinking of Him. Both films saw the cast and crew in full attendance that celebrated a strong India connect. The opening film saw heavyweights like Majid Majidi, A R Rahman and Vishal Bhardwaj present and opened to a packed hall. The closing film, on the other hand, had celebrated Argentinian actress Elenora Wexler and Indian actress Raima Sen, who were both present for the screening.

While the programme was impeccably curated, whether the first-of-its-kind retrospective of James Bond films, restored classics or the Mixed Reality Sidebar with AR and VR packages, among others, the festival was not without its flaws. But that is standard with most international film festivals; IFFI 2017 was truly the best edition of this festival thus far.

With most guests hosted at Taj Vivanta, the festival hotel, there were days when guests had to be hosted at other hotels owing to heavy attendance this year. Now, while that proved to be an inconvenience for some, it is testament to the fact that this year saw a spike in attendance. Noted names such as Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pendnekar, Huma Qureshi, Alia Bhatt, Mukesh Chhabra, Sachin Khedekar, Nana Patekar among many others made their presence felt.

IFFI 2017 was also about engaging master classes and panel discussions, with the likes of Craig Mann, Shekhar Kapur and Nitish Tiwari interacting with delegates on sound design, direction and screenwriting respectively. The sort of speakers and topics were both very well thought out and executed, proving to be a great learning platform for those who attended.

The festival, for the first time, threw open its doors to the many journalists who attended and were invited. This marked a sea change and showcased a new face of the festival, one that is at par with those internationally.

Unfortunately, at IFFI 2017, the tremendous effort that went into putting together a great programme was marred by the controversy surrounding the Indian Panaroma section of the festival, notwithstanding the fact that the Panaroma Programme in itself presented over seven world premieres and some truly wonderful new Indian feature and non-feature films. This section was overshadowed by the controversy regarding Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s new feature S Durga, which was allegedly dropped from the festival programme.

What the festival made up in its programme and attendance, it did not in its travel and hospitality for the guests. This was perhaps the only grievance that many had. The festival also handled well the double-edged sword of having Indian celebrities, with a good mix of international and Indian celebrities.

Perhaps what one fails to account for is the fact that IFFI is the only official film festival of the country which, unlike the many other film festivals in India, comes with a tremendous sense of responsibility, with any small move being construed wrongly or standing to offend someone. It is something that we, as external attendants, fail to realise or see meaning in. The IFFI opening and closing ceremonies were grand affairs. While the opening introduced the jury members such as Muzaffar Ali, Maxine Williamson, Tzahi Grad, Vladislav Opalyants and Roger Christian, it also had a spectacular performance that showcased the drums of India. The closing ceremony was all about the awards.

The festival presented awards of over Rs one crore, with the current festival favourite Beats Per Minute winning the Best Film award and the Best Actor for Nahuel Perez Biscaryat. The Best Director award was given to Vivian Qu for her film Angels Wear White and the Debut Film of a Director award was given to Kiro Russo for his film Dark Skull.

Indian films Kshitij A Horizon bagged the ICFT Unesco Gandhi Medal, while Mahesh Narayan won the Special Jury Award for his film Take Off. Noted Malayalam actress Parvathy T K bagged the Best Actress award for her performance in the film.

The festival also awarded Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan with its Lifetime Achievement award and presented the Personality of the Year award to living legend, Amitabh Bachchan. The closing ceremony saw performances by Sidharth Malthotra and Salman Khan, the former paying tribute to Mr Bachchan with a medley of his works.

The Film Bazaar too was a grand success, with a record number of attendants and projects presented. Among the many firsts was the Bioscope Village with the sidebar activity of IFFI Next Gen, under which films were presented to the Goan public. A specially organised Katta series had the likes of Sushant Singh Rajput, Sachin Khedekar, Ranvir Shorey, Samit Kakkad among numerous others in conversation with Sachin Chatte.

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