Extended festivities for cine buffs
Connoisseurs of good cinema are in for an extended festival season with the 35th edition of the International Film Festival of India getting underway even as the dream merchants of Mumbai flood the marquees with this year's biggest ever productions.
By Priyanka Khanna, IANS
India has hosted 34 International Film Festivals since 1952, both competitive and non-competitive. These festivals became annual events from 1975.
The next festival, which includes a competition for feature films by Asian directors, will be held in Goa from Nov 29.
A host of top celebrities from Bollywood along with several internationally acclaimed artistes are expected to converge at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
According to the organisers, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, Mira Nair, Karan Johar and Oscar winners Robert Bilheimer and Florian Gallenberger, who is a member of the jury, Juan Gerlad, Darrell James Roodt, Amos Gitai, Denish Boivan, Kate Shortland, Avi Neshar, Xiaolian Peng and Karen Shakhnazarov are expected during the film festival.
The festival will have some 200 films over a 10-day period. Fifteen films from Iran, China, Israel, Russia and Sri Lanka, some of which have already won prestigious awards abroad, will compete with "Shwaas", the official entry for the Oscars, and "Bow Barracks Forever" by Anjan Dutt from India for the best Asian film honours.
In the Retrospective Section, films of Ashok Amritraj will be shown. Among these, "Raising Helen" will be premiered in India.
IFFI will also pay homage to Vittorio Gassman, a versatile star of Italy who passed away in 2000, by screening six of his films.
Films from Africa, Poland, Germany, Canada, Egypt, Portugal and Taiwan will showcase the talent from these countries. Tributes will also be paid to filmmaker Yash Johar, Nargis Dutt, Saundarya, Vijay Anand, Bhabendra Nath Saikia and Mehmood with the screening of some of their popular films.
Though not as shrouded in controversy as the recent Mumbai International Film Festival earlier this year, in which angry documentary-makers had set up a rival film festival, after accusing a government-sponsored event of rejecting controversial films, IFFI has seen a fair amount of trouble.
Deciding the venue for the event itself saw the film fraternity divided and politicians jumped into the foray to complicate the matters further.
After being known for long as the moving or gypsy festival, as all those involved have never managed to reach a consensus on its permanent venue, Goa was fixed as the venue by the former Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in spite of much opposition.
Now that the government at the centre is supported by Left parties, lobbying for a change in the venue of the film festival was revived. In fact, even as Goa was giving finishing touches to its arrangements, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya went public with his disapproval for the choice of venue.
Those mooting for Goa to be the permanent venue for the international festival say the state's strength is tourism, its East-meets-West culture and its beautiful greenery and beaches.
The other camp says West Bengal with its rich film culture is the ideal location for such a festival.
Incidentally, a documentary from Kolkata has emerged as a contender for the Oscar nominations.
The film titled "Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids" by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman is among the 12 short-listed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the best documentary feature Oscar.
It seems that in a bid to lend IFFI a popular and appealing face, organisers seem to have spent more time in getting on board Bollywood celebrities and less effort in making the festival a delight for its content.
Trade observer Saibal Chatterjee said the films lined up for this year could turn out to be disappointingly tepid. While the Cinema of the World section is lacklustre, the retrospectives do not boast any international masterworks.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien's films are missing from the special package of Taiwanese cinema and the festival will screen "Goodbye Dragon Inn" which was shown at Osian's Cinefan in New Delh recently.
A planned tribute to the late David Lean is a lean homage with just two of his films. It will largely be India-centric fare in both the main sections and the sidebars, said Chatterjee, and the six single-film tributes are an example of tokenism run amok.
Hindi film lovers, though, will have no reason to complain.
The Indian Panorama section will feature 21 films -- six in Hindi, four in Malayalam, three each in English and Bengali, two in Marathi and one each in Assamese, Kannada and Kokborok (a language of Tripura).
The Marathi film "Shwaas" and Gajendra Ahire's "Not Only Mrs Raut" will vie in the Indian Panorama section with M.F. Husain's "Meenaxi: Tale Of 3 Cities" and Sudhir Mishra's "Chameli" and "Hazaaron Khwahishen Aise."
Among the non-feature films are "War And Peace" (Anand Patwardhan), "Saanjih" (Jasmine Kaur), "Shantiniketan" (Arun Khopkar), "I Could'nt Be Your Son" (Sohini Dasgupta), "Invisible Parsis" (Kaevan Umrigar) and "Is God Deaf" (Sanjivan Lal).
Not to be left behind will be popular Hindi films like "Baghban", "Munnabhai MBBS" and "Koi...Mil Gaya" along with four Telugu, three Bengali and one film each in Marathi and Malayalam.
Fifty films have been selected for the Cinema Of The World section.
Four foreign films will be premiered at the festival, including three American films. They are Marc Forster's "Finding Neverland", Joseph Rubin's "The Forgotten" and Brad Bird's "The Incredibles".
Indian films like "American Daylight" by Roger Christian, "Hari Om" by Ganapathy Bharat and "Chai Pani" by Manu Rewal will have special screenings.