Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Friday inaugurated the 16th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) at the Nishagandhi open air auditorium, decked up to resemble a `Kathakali arangu.'

Inaugurating the week-long event, Mr. Chandy said that apart from providing a global platform, the IFFK would help Malayalam cinema to imbibe the cinematic innovations experimented in films from across the world.

Veteran actor Jaya Bachchan was the chief guest at the function, presided over by Minister for Sports and Cinema K.B. Ganesh Kumar. Cultural Affairs Minister K.C. Joseph, Minister for Transport and Devaswom V.S. Sivakumar, Sasi Tharoor, MP, Culture Secretary Sajan Peter, Kerala State Chalachitra Academy chairman and festival director S. Priyadarshan, vice-chairman Gandhimathi Balan, festival deputy director Bina Paul Venugopal, Kerala Film Chamber president B. Sasikumar, FEFCA president B. Unnikrishnan and MACTA chairman Harikumar were present.

Versatile actor Om Puri, veteran Malayalam actor Sukumari, and jury chairman and Australian film-maker Bruce Beresford also graced the occasion.

Speaking at the function, Ms. Bachachan said that it was after a gap of 20 years that she was visiting Thiruvananthapuram. ‘‘I had come here in 1991 when the city hosted the Children's Film Festival. I have very fond memories of this place,'' she said.

Ms. Bachchan added that the presence of stalwarts such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and P.K. Nair emphasised the quality and legitimacy of the IFFK. ‘‘Ultimately it is good cinema, good screening, and good projection that is most important for the success of a festival. I hope and I know that IFFK has all of this,'' she said.

Mr. Priyadarshan said the film festival was an occasion to renew ties and build new relationship. ‘‘This festival is organised every year to showcase films that are otherwise not easily accessible to audiences here. I hope that this festival, as usual, offers an enriching experience for our audience,'' he said.

The festival catalogue and festival bulletin was released at the inaugural function and this was followed by a cultural programme, ‘Destiny's Dice,' based on the epic Mahabharata and directed by film-maker T.K. Rajeev Kumar.

This was followed by the screening of the inaugural film, ‘Under the Hawthron Tree,' directed by Chinese film-maker Zhang Yimou.