The Rooftop Film Festival allows film enthusiasts to explore, understand and appreciate cinema through a night-long movie marathon

A starlit sky, flowing white sheets and mattresses to laze on, a soothing cool breeze, distant street lights and “Before Sunrise” playing on the giant screen. Feels like an open air film fest at one of the many parks in NYC doesn't it? But no, we are still very much in good old Chennai enjoying The Rooftop Film Festival (RTFF). The setting is perfect for a romantic night and perhaps an apt one for a night dedicated to movies belonging to the genre of Modern Romance. The line-up includes “Say Anything,” “Like Crazy” and “True Romance”.

The Rooftop Film Festival is a monthly event that aims to bring together film enthusiasts under one roof, in this case on one roof, for a night-long movie marathon. It allows them to explore cinema with a focus and discuss films to understand and appreciate them better. Each month RTFF also invites a special guest to interact with the members. This time it's Balaji Mohan, director of “Kaadhalil Sothappuvathu Yeppadi.” The evening starts with a short film of his followed by an interactive session. “This is the first time I am attending something like this. It's a novel idea and an excellent way of enlightening people on cinema,” says Balaji.

RTFF apparently has managed around 200 people this time — its largest turnout so far. The venue for the month, terrace of the Corporation Bank, Royapettah, is teeming with an enthusiastic audience, all looking rather comfortable in the informal set-up. Some even in their pyjamas and night clothes, cosily snuggling in their quilts. It starts at 9.30 p.m. and goes on till 6.30 in the morning. What you also get as an added bonus is a fabulous glimpse of the sunrise. So it's like a slumber party where you watch back-to-back movies but you aren't allowed to fall asleep. Each movie is followed by discussions, Q and A sessions, coffee, snacks and more movies. “Once we had an air-conditioned place and quite a few people fell asleep. We had to wake them up. Ideally we prefer roofs, not comfy air-conditioned confines that may encourage them to sleep,” says Girish Chandran, one of the organisers.

The concept of outdoor screening is popular in many countries where groups of people assemble at parks, by the riverside or sometimes against the backdrop of a monument and watch movies. In Chennai, the RTFF first took place in 2007, when Ganesh APP and his friends decided to screen the cricket World Cup on a roof top. “India crashed out in the first round so we thought why not play movies since we already have the projector and screen,” says Ganesh.

After Ganesh left Chennai, the festival took place till 2010 and then stopped for a brief while. It was then revived on September 17, 2011 by a group of film aficionados. The theme that night was heist films. Every screening has a particular theme ranging from monster movies, war comedies, animation, murder mysteries to Indian panorama. Every edition has a curator, the one in April will be curated by Murugananth and this edition will feature musicals. “Anyone can organise it. It's a collective of film lovers. There is no hierarchy or structures governing the film festival. It belongs to every movie buff who wants to spend a night once a month watching movies and discussing them with like-minded people,” says Sandeep Makam, one of the organisers.

But to be a curator one needs to have attended atleast three RTFFs. The good thing about RTFF is that it's simple and uncomplicated. Works like a pot luck house party where everybody participating contributes. Everything right from hiring to laying out the mattresses to cleaning up the space post the event is done by them.

But there are rules. “You can't talk on the phone, no littering, no smoking and no drinking. RTFFs are about films and films first. We have noticed that the 10-minute smoking breaks are enough distraction already. To avoid further disturbances we like to keep it alcohol-free,” adds Sandeep.

So, movie lovers and those looking for ways to pull an all-nighter other than partying here's something that will keep you up and entertained.

For details, log onto https://www.facebook.com/ChennaiRTFF or apply for the Google Group membership at http://groups.google.com/group/RTFF or follow @ChennaiRTFF on Twitter.

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Priyadarshini PaitandyJune 28, 2012