The inauguration of the 40th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) provided a platform for Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni to pitch for greater global recognition of the event.

After seasoned actor Waheeda Rehman lit a lamp to “symbolically dispel the darkness,’ Ms. Soni exhorted the organisers to make the IFFI “comparable to Cannes, Venice and Toronto festivals.”

“It is the biggest festival of the most prolific film industry in the world. It has to be as good as any international film festival,” the Minister said, adding she was being present “as a fan.”

Ms. Soni said, “The magic of Indian cinema is both enthralling and universal. Films are made of dreams but they are the most easily accessible form of entertainment.”

Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat said: “It is the sixth edition of the film festival here. We want to tell the world that Goa has a film culture. The number of films being produced or shot in Goa has increased significantly. Our aim is to make IFFI one of the best international festivals.”

Incidentally, the 11-day extravaganza has a special section, Goa on Celluloid. The festival started with a special screening of the Chinese period film ‘Wheat.’ It is set in 260 B.C. when China was mired in a prolonged bloody war.

Compered impeccably by veteran actor Kabir Bedi and star Divya Dutta in a blend of English, Hindi and Urdu, the highlight of the inaugural function was a performance by classical artiste Leela Samson and her troupe, who brought together the varied hues of Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Mohiniattam, Rasa and Manipuri martial art forms in a 25-minute spectacle.

Directorate of Film Festivals Director S.M. Khan and a host of national and international film personalities, including actors Nana Patekar and Asin, and foreign filmmakers João Batista de Andrade and Roland Reber attended the function.

The festival is scheduled to screen some 300 films from across the world. The most popular sections include competitions for feature films from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The festival also celebrates the golden jubilee of actors Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore and Asha Parekh in the film industry, with special screenings of their choice films.

The competition section has 15 films including 13 from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, Iran, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Argentina.

The competition jury is headed by director Andrade. The members include Vic Sarin (Canada), Kenichi Okubu (Japan) and Jean-Michel Frodon (France) and Sarika (India).

Also, films of Gurinder Chadha, Nonzee Nimibutr, Roland Reber and Manoel de Oliveira will be screened under “Foreign Retrospectives.”