The 17th International Children's Film Festival is certainly bigger but could be better

The atmosphere at both Shilparamam and Shilpakala Vedika, the adjacent venues for the 17th International Children's Film Festival is infectious to say the obvious. The energy and enthusiasm of children who pour in from different schools is to be seen to be believed. This alone is the striving force behind the festival, which has yet again fallen short of expectations.

As the festival draws to a close tomorrow, it's time to take stock. The festival was bigger (154 films from 38 countries) but far from being better. In the previous years, delegates and children had to shuttle between Prasad's Imax, which was the main venue for screenings, and Lalita Kala Thoranam for the workshops. Realising the need for a larger platform, the Children's Film Society of India chose Shilpakala Vedika and Shilparamam as the main venues.

The open-air venue with makeshift cinema halls isn't a bad idea at all. The three screens — Magic Land, Dream Land and Wonder Land — are actually huge air-conditioned tents. Each hall is equipped with six to eight air conditioners. But at a given time, only two or three air conditioners were functional, leaving the auditorium uncomfortably cold in certain areas leaving the others to sweat it out.

Consider yourself lucky if you got to watch films as per the schedule and without interruptions. On a few occasions, films were rescheduled or delayed due to bad prints and the jury failing to arrive on time. The volunteers did their bit, helping each student and delegate to find a seat. But there was only so much they could do, since the number of students outnumbered the seats inside the halls. Each hall could accommodate 200 to 250, of which a few rows were reserved for the jury and delegates. Students had to make do with the rest. A large number of children were left to find under the shadow of the tents until the next screening.

Add to this, the audio reproduction was anything but of international standards. What was even more appalling was some of the screenings being interrupted for change of reel! Talk about single projection system in the age of digital cinema! Further, the single-level seating arrangement meant making an extra effort to read the subtitles.

On the upside, the CFSI ensured that the children didn't go hungry or thirsty, making arrangements for packaged drinking water and small eats. Availability of ramps ensured that children with disability could also reach the venue without much difficulty.

And finally, the festival gave its delegates a good chance to burn some calories. The parking lots closer to the makeshift cinema halls were reserved for the cops and VIPs, while others had to park their vehicles much further and trek up to catch the screenings. Going back and forth from the screening venues to the media centre and the Sampradaya Vedika inside Shilparamam proved to be a workout indeed.