A Festival Like No Other ….. (IFFI 2021)

Held every year in the state of Goa, IFFI provides a common platform for filmmakers from across the globe. Filmmakers use the platform to showcase their work and appreciate the work of others in the industry. The convergence of different film cultures enables a greater understanding of changing trends and interests in world cinema. The annual festival is organized jointly by the Directorate of Film Festivals (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) and the state Government of Goa (Entertainment Society of Goa).

TEXT: SHANGON DAS GUPTA

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THE INAUGURATION

Bling, lavish costumes, extravagant sets, gossamer lights and all the razzmatazz!!!!

IFFI 52 is here with aplomb and not a care about the C word or the unseasonal rains.

Changing backdrops provided a fascinating sight as the performers led by Ranvir Singh crossed the 75-metre stage staging the quintessential cricket scene, with Ranvir hitting a six on the last ball, last over into the audience!

Other stunt acts drawing applause from the audience were a quirky motorcycle scene, a romantic jeep scene and the gyrating dance acts led by ‘Jumma chumma de de’.

The entertainment extravaganza by Ranveer Singh, Shraddha Kapoor, Salman Khan, Ritesh and Genelia Deshmukh and a Goan dance performance followed a series of short speeches by the line up of dignitaries. Anchored by Manish Paul and Karan Johar, and sponsored by Vaseline and Amazon Prime, the evening was a delightful spectacle of resilience, hope and never-say-die spirit. Particularly touching were the messages from the recipients of the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Awards (Martin Scorsese and Istvan Szabo) which came via video and indeed, straight from the heart. They recalled the phenomenal outstanding work of the cine artist and the learnings of the art of film making that they absorbed into their own work.

It was a grand opening, albeit with a few glitches, but we believe that given the times that the world is in, there is much to be appreciated. The future plans laid down by the leaders, the optimism of the 75 creative minds, the energy of the performances – there is much to look forward to.

Though screens are getting smaller, the passion for good films is surely increasing. IFFI has started – in hi-style and true spirit of celebration of 52 years!

Day 2

There’s nothing called ‘too early’ for a film festival. By 9 a.m., the lines had started forming for the first show of day 2 at INOX.

Everyone was in a rush to get somewhere. “It doesn’t matter which film,” said one youngster. “I just want to see a film.”

“It’s a Festival,” said the next person in the line. “All the films will be great.”

Audiences had congregated from across regions – of course, Mumbai, Kerala, Karnataka, and as far as Delhi and Dubai. Film enthusiasts from closer areas like Mapusa and Margao stood patiently in the queue. Comments on films seen earlier and those that they had planned to see were free for general discussion and inputs.

Expectations were high and the mood was upbeat.

Changes in schedule, dark rain clouds, clumsy seating did nothing to spoil the mood – though there were envious glances at those who stood in line for the screening of the highlight films. That the seating capacity had been increased to 100% created more excitement and efforts to get the additional tickets were made available at the counter.

By midday, the television camera was on location and the spot interviews had started. Small clusters instantly formed as the celebrity spoke into the mike. This attracted more attention and drew greater traction and soon there was a buzz of several beehives!

Coffee and beer alternated through the day as the young, middle-aged and elderly lounged in the food court and discussed films and the challenges in the industry.

At the end of the day, plans were being made to head to Joseph’s Bar – a walking distance from the venue. As well as plans for the next day!

SOMEWHERE MID-FESTIVAL….

How’s the Josh? High Sir!

This sums up the mood on Day 4 of IFFI 52.

It was a day of high energy as the delegates patiently stood in serpentine lines to watch the films on different screens. It was a day of seamless transitions between films and screens, giving the young volunteers a few moments to sit in between screenings.

Regular faces became familiar, and familiar faces became friends on Day 4.

Said one delegate to another, “The IFFI festival is about watching good and great international films which we don’t get to see normally. But along with this, IFFI aids networking and fellowship.”

Nodded the other in agreement, “The chance to meet some of the great minds and discuss their work is a big learning opportunity. I look forward to these experiences.”

The young Director of Rain, Janno Jurgens of Estonian origin attended the screening of his debut film. “I travelled 6000 miles to be here, just to hear the audience response from different parts of the globe. It is intense learning for me too.”

The Red Carpet was also rolled out for the other celebrities of the day – old and debutante who imbibed and reflected the joyous spirit of the festival.

And so the dice rolls on to Day 5 of the 52nd IFFI extravaganza. Every tree on the boulevard bordering the Mandovi river was lit up with technicolour razzmatazz in an effort that held back no stops to create a dreamlike experience not just for the 3000 delegates, but every visitor to the city of Panjim.

When Pomegranates Howl (Afghanistan Australia)

Based on a true story, this beautiful and touching film is set in war-stricken Kabul. Two young boys push a cart in the streets selling pomegranates and balloons to support their families. Catching the eye of an Aussie photographer who is in Kabul on assignment, he takes several photos of the two boys.

The imagination of the boys gets fired up, and one dreams of becoming a film star and the other a singer. Using creative fun games, the duo becomes heroes amongst the local boy community.

A huge bomb explosion occurs. Their dreams are instantly aborted. Martyrdom.

The grieving family refuse to accept the photos offered to them by the photographer. Yet it is used by NatGeo for the cover story.

When Pomegranates Howl is a moving film that captures the innocence of children and the violence of the times. The back story is equally touching. In solidarity with the situation, the Australian government funded this 80-minute film, subtly ensuring that the lives of the two young boys would never be forgotten (nor the violence forgiven).

Director : Granaz Moussavi

When pomegranates howl Movie Poster

AND ON DAY 6….

Sitting outside at the IFFI venue is as interesting as sitting inside the auditorium!

Why? Coz it’s a nonstop fashion show.

The young and the not-so-young used imaginative ways to wear a bandana – even on their long permed hair which was nonchalantly allowed to stray out. Anti-fit dresses in creative styles were worn with youthful confidence while linen pants and Crop tops was another favourite. Neon colour t-shirts with cheesy messages (High on Films, New Wave Coming, Ma aur Cinema, Believe in Yourself, Kya Cheeze Hai) added amusement as well as colour to the day.

Masks and tags were mandatory and the white canvas IFFI bag with an umbrella poking out was a statutory add-on.

A troupe of local singers and musicians in beach shirts strummed the guitar and sang melodious tunes through the day adding to the festive feeling. A medley of Portuguese, Konkani and Hindi songs had everyone tapping their feet to the local beats while the serpentine lines formed seamlessly – show to show.

On Day 6 and IFFI is at its peak.

DRAWING THE CURTAINS DOWN….

It will not be wrong to say that Goa loves hosting IFFI. No stops were held back and no holds barred as the small State went all out to celebrate the annual landmark event. Banners, posters, hoardings, installations, lights, streamers – IFFI was everywhere. It was in your face ….. so whether one was a local, or a tourist or a film buff….. it didn’t matter. ESG ensured that everyone in Goa celebrated IFFI.

The festival had screenings of different genres of films – from debuts to retrospectives, from awards to fellowships, from celebrities to novice, from students to practitioners, from panel discussions to workshops… there was something for everybody. The lifetime achievement awards honoured the greatest filmmakers and the Golden Peacock appreciated the new talent in the industry.

Commitments were made to promote the future of the industry within the State and increase the range of support services for filmmaking.

As the curtains came down on the 9-day event, the mood changed from one of planning the films for the next day to discussions about their return travel, traffics snares to the airport, and of course the spread of the Omicron. In the same breath, plans were made to be back next year with a new crop of films, and the new innovations at IFFI 53.

So for the moment it’s goodbye IFFI and as we say in Konkani ‘miochay adeus’ until next time. And till then ‘deu boro dis dium or ‘may Goa give you a good day’ and see you in IFFI 53! Stay well and stay safe….

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Author: Shangon Das Gupta
Shangon is an enthusiastic traveller and is either just back from one trip or planning the next. Her dream is to visit 5 wonders of the world. Why not all 7? Coz nothing is perfect. Yet the joy of living must be greater than the fear of dying….

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