Come October and it will be a week-long feast for cinema aficionados, courtesy Jio MAMI 19th Mumbai International Film Festival, where 220 films from across the world are set to screen. And like every year, months leading to the festival are brimmed with activities and initiatives, lesser-known but interesting, nonetheless. They included The Word to Screen Market, the Young Critics Lab and the Year Round Programme.
The Young Critics Lab, which offers a course to aspiring film journalists, was this time mentored by National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan. The workshops, which began this June, will conclude with the festival. The selected students will also write during the festival (October 12-18) and one among them will be awarded with the ‘Young Critics Award’ at the closing ceremony. In an interaction with indianexpress.com, MAMI creative director Smriti Kiran shared the changes that the team has brought this year to the course.
“Festival is an experience. You don’t tell people to watch movies, that they can do that anywhere. But people will be compelled to talk about a festival only when the experience is good. The problem with MAMI earlier was in its organisation. We had to work on it. So, in the first year, I made the workshops three times and I got an Indian mentor. In the second year also we followed this. Earlier, we had students nominated from Bombay colleges for young critics lab but that didn’t sit well with me so we made it pan-India. This year, we opened the entries to all-India and for the first time, we got 100 students in the lab,” said Smriti, who along with director Kiran Rao and renowned film journalist Anupama Chopra took over the reins of MAMI in 2014.
She added that the aim of the workshops is to allow the students to look at movies in a different light and broaden their perspective about cinema writing, which has become extremely important in the current scenario, where everybody is a film reviewer, their knowledge of movies notwithstanding.
“The texture of the workshops is not about honing their skill. We are saying that we don’t know if you have it in you, but you come and we will just show you how to look at a film and how to look at it differently. Then you decide what your gaze is. We are not deciding anything for you, we only want to tell you that these are the different ways to look at the material, we will tell you what is an opinion, a critique, what are the responsibilities, what constitutes a good review, a good film piece… So, it’s more about the basics because everybody assumes he or she can write. It’s very important to do something like this,” she said.
Besides training people about writing on films, MAMI has also now taken on merging the worlds of literature and cinema, which have been in a symbiotic relationship since time immemorial. Last year, the festival started the Word to Screen Market, which gives writers and publishers a platform to pitch their works to production houses and directors for big screen adaptation. Actor Sonam Kapoor, known for her love for books, is the brand ambassador of the initiative. This year, the market had filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Vikramditya Motwane, Onir and Siddharth Roy Kapur in attendance. At the event, Sonam announced that she has bought the rights to a mythological novel Govinda, by Krishna Udayshankar.
MAMI Year Round Programme, which hosts exclusive film premieres, workshops and masterclasses, this time screened Gurinder Chadha’s Partition: 1947, in August. Gurinder and the film’s leading lady Huma Qureshi sat for a post-screening conversation, moderated by Kashyap, who directed the actor in her first Bollywood film.