Ever wondered what goes behind a film festival? How are films selected? Well, fret not if you don't as Deepti DCunha, Programmer - Indian selection, of the upcoming Mumbai Film Festival, is here! She's been working on Indian and International Film Festivals for the past seven years. Not just that, she's been the India Consultant to Marco Mueller since 2011 for Venice film festival, Rome film festival, Beijing International Film Festival and Silk Road International film festival (SRIFF) in China. Excerpts from the interview:
Can you tell us a bit about your responsibilities as a festival programmer?
As a festival programmer, I am basically responsible for sourcing and selection of films for a particular section or as per a particular brief given to me by the festival director.
What can people expect form the Indian Selection at Mumbai Film Festival this year?
People can expect great quality Indian Cinema. A lot of World Premieres and Indian Premiere which will make audiences of Jio MAMI the first ever Indian audiences of the Indian Films they watch. They will also see around 18 debut films by Indian filmmakers. The selection promises quality and diversity.
Do you have to watch all films from India to select the best ones?
I have to watch all the films that have officially submitted to the festival. This year there were 248 feature length films which were submitted for consideration.
“Cinema can be enriching and memorable and if you let it, then it can be life changing as well.”
How did you decide to become a festival programmer?
It's not something I had decided since being a festival programmer is not really a common career choice. It's something that came my way because I experimented with a lot of professions in my early 20s trying to figure out a space that I really wanted to belong to. I am very lucky that I finally found that space. I have loved watching films since a long time and I have been lucky to find very supportive people who encouraged this passion of mine. I initially worked with Katha Centre for Film Studies with professor Prabodh Parikh, who was the first person to encourage me to curate films. During that experience, I attended Osian's Cinefan as a delegate and I decided that this is the film festival I wanted to work with. I applied and finally found myself working for Osian's Cinefan Film Festival in Delhi where I began my journey as a Jury Secretary. The next year, Mani Kaul, the then festival director, saw potential in me as a programmer and asked me to help him curate a very special program called NewStream cinema. Post that he recommended me to the Festival Director of Venice Film Festival, Mr. Marco Mueller (to whom I still am India Consultant, over the journey of several International Film Festivals). Marco introduced me to Nina Lath Gupta of NFDC Film Bazaar in 2011 and I have worked with Film Bazaar since. I worked with International Children's Film Festival of India with Monica Wahi for 2 editions. Finally last year, Anupama Chopra and Smriti Kiran invited me to be part of the new Jio MAMI team, which finally gave me the opportunity to work for the film festival of my very own city!
"This year there were 248 feature length films which submitted for consideration."
Which are your film recommendations at this year's MFF?
I really can't choose because each film that has been programmed has been done with very long deliberations and each one is special. As part of the programming team of Jio MAMI, we have presented what we believe is the best of Indian Cinema this year and we now await feedback from audiences and critics about the selection. But I would advise the delegates to look closely at the debut films and the premieres simply for the joy of being first audiences of either a filmmaker or a film.
What's the best thing about your job?
I know the answer might seem surprising, but it is that I get to work from home.
One of the conditions when I take up any festival is that I work from home since I refuse to waste time commuting in this city. So unlike most Mumbaikars, I don't have the stress of getting to an office at a particular time or have to brave nasty traffic. So yes, that's the very best thing. And the other is that I get to work with so many wonderful and passionate people. I have colleagues and friends from all over the world and we share the same passion for cinema. I meet so many filmmakers from so many regions of India, who are so passionate and many of them making their debut films. If you ask me what's the worst thing about my job, there are many things and the list is too long..but I don't want to sound ungrateful when people look at me with envy and say I have the best job in the world. so yes, let the illusion live on (smiles).
Any other aspect you want to throw light on?
Not really. I just want to wish all filmmakers all the very best. They have chosen a very tough profession and I deeply respect them for that. It's a profession of passion so keep that fire burning. And for audiences, I would say, experiment more with your choices. There is great talent in India that will make it with audience support, so do support different types of cinema and look at films as more than 'paisa vasool' or 'timepass'. Cinema can be enriching and memorable and if you let it, then it can be life changing as well. It's powerful medium so engage with it with your mind and soul.
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