Once one of the most anticipated and celebrated events in the cultural calendar, the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) this year was a low key affair. It was beset by FTII protesters at its door, delegates decrying the poor facilities and poor attendance by film stars– in its 46th edition, IFFI greatly missed its glamour quotient.
Even IFFI’s jury members such as director Michael Radford of the UK could not help pointing out that only cut-outs of Bollywood stars hung in screening venues at Kala Mandir. “Where are these stars ?” Radford asked, adding that popular stars were the crowd-pullers and added to the success of the fest. “At the Toronto International Film festival, which has been growing year after year, I have seen the influence the stars… Locals even plan their holidays based on the dates of the star-studded film festival,” he remarked.
Apart from IFFI chief guest Anil Kapoor and A R Rahman, not many popular faces made it to the venue. the Director of the Film Festival C. Senthil Rajan said the focus was on inviting directors, producers and technicians — 750 were present – but no one could explain why the Film Bazaar organised simultaneously by National Film Development Corporation (NDFC), close to the IFFI venue was thronged by film makers, produces, actors and directors, whereas IFFI wasn’t.
In that sense, the Film Bazaar was the show stealer and Senthil’s promise to organise after parties to the festival to attract celebrities, was an admission of IFFI’s lacklustre showing.
What also caught most participants off-guard was the poor delegate turnout: though the organisers pegged the total online registration at 7,000 delegates, official figures indicated that only a little over 3,500 collected their delegate cards at the venue. Apart from a few films, in
most cases the screenings saw less than 50 per cent attendance.
IFFI had at its disposal 2,538 seats across seven screening venues, each on a average projecting seven shows per day (altogether 406 shows as per the manifest). That gave the organisers a maximum capacity of hosting 1,77,660 people during the 10-day fest but according to the Ministry of Information and Broadcast it sold just over 80,000 tickets which is approximately 45 per cent of the occupancy.
Moreover, despite the screening of select IFFI movies at the nearby Azad Maidan, the local community participation was negligible. “Last year there were local stalls selling eateries and stuff, which attracted people who used to hover around the venue. This year, it seems they want only hand-picked people to come to the festival,” said Srinivas K, a local resident.
Many delegates claimed the lack of enthusiasm was the decision to hike the entry fee from Rs. 300 for Rs.1,000 (IFFI:2014-13,000 delegates, IFFI:2015-7000). Others have taken on DFF for the quality of the films screened. “The focus of IFFI was distracted, they wanted to bring master classes, workshops and other peripheral activities into the mainstream of the film festival. In the process, their budget for investing in good quality cinema was restricted: good films were available for $ 600 per screening, instead they bought whatever they could for $200,” said a prominent music composer and a IFFI delegate said.
Though IFFI defended the quality of the films, by its own fact-sheet only 26 films were nominated for Oscars.
On the other hand the Students’ Association Film and Television Institute of India (SAFTII) held an alternative film festival ‘Retracing Freedom’ to protest against the refusal to allow FTII students’ films to be screened at IFFI and got a good response.
Complaints by IFFI delegates over the lack of adequate facilities was reflected by Resul Pookutty, the Oscar-winning Indian film sound designer: “Worst #IFFI 2015 I have ever been, no proper arrangement, no coordination, nobody knows why somebody is invited, worst hotels, really feel sad!”, he tweeted. Later, he said it was not right of him to air his grievances on the platform provided by IFFI. B S Lingaraju, the director of the national award-winning Kannada film on transgender ‘Naanu Avanalla…Avalu’ suggested that IFFI should move from state to state every year.
Goa was declared the permanent venue for IFFI by the Centre last year.