44th International Film Festival opens in Goa

The 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) opened here on Wednesday afternoon with a warning to India’s vibrant film industry that the freedom of expression on which they thrived was under threat from obscurantist forces.

Addressing a galaxy of leading lights of the celluloid world from India and abroad, Union Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Manish Tewari asked the industry to reflect on it could do to preserve and protect the “idea of India” and to build a world “free of fear of monologues and monotheistic manifestations.”

Advocating eternal vigilance, the Minister urged the people not to “delude ourselves into subscribing to the optimistic naïveté… that any compromise with the forces of darkness can buy us the peace of our times.”

According to Mr. Tewari, IFFI and all such festivals seek to underscore the core values that define the idea of India. “What we really seek to reinforce are the values of pluralism, diversity, democracy, freedom of thought and expression and the ability to challenge the conventional.”

His words of caution came after a 30-minute celebration of India’s celluloid journey through a Kathak ensemble choreographed by the maestro Birju Maharaj, and the presentation of the first Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality to actress Waheeda Rehman and Lifetime Achievement Award to Czech film-maker Jiri Menzel.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar promised the film buffs — who had gathered in a makeshift hall set up on an open ground along the Mandovi river — that by the next edition of the film festival, the opening ceremony would be held in a fully-equipped convention centre with screening facilities.

Since IFFI moved here in 2004, the festival has been organised in a number of old buildings along the river. The Goa government has been a tad reluctant in investing in film festival-specific infrastructure due to questions asked in the media about whether IFFI was here to stay.

This question came up earlier in the day at Mr. Tewari’s press conference yet again. When asked by a Goa-based reporter why the Centre did not declare Goa a permanent venue, his answer was: “The fact that IFFI has been here since 2004 should remove this doubt. This festival is here to stay unless you throw us out.”

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