The delegate cell of the IFFK is a beehive of activity in the lead up to the fete

The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) has always been the festival of the people, famed for the crowds that it attracts, the thousands of ordinary ‘delegates’ from all walks of life, who live and breathe world cinema for the week that the fete is in town. As such, in the run up to the fete, the mood at the delegate cell, an extensive pavilion set up on the grounds of Tagore Theatre, is one of infectious energy. Cheerful, quietly efficient volunteers, young men and women, most of who are undergraduate students of mass communication and video production at Mar Ivanios College, buzz about the place checking lists and handing out passes and festival kits to the many delegates who keep trickling in.

“This time around 17,000 people registered for the fete,” says Sandeep Senan, convener of the delegate cell. “Of these, some 8,400 people have paid the delegate fee. Since we opened up shop here at Tagore Theatre on December 1, almost 5,000 delegates have collected their passes and kits. That’s apart from the 1,000-plus passes for media, officials and the like,” adds the young film producer, who is in charge of the cell for the second year running now.

As many delegates, especially old timers to the fete will tell you, the process of collecting passes/kits is nowadays surprisingly easy. Those endless queues seem to be a thing of the past thanks to the 12 counters set up especially for the purpose. “While online registrations were going on, the passes were already being printed. Every process was on schedule and is completely automated. And because of that we’re now fully equipped to deal with the flow of delegates and we are able to hand over the passes/kits to them in a timely fashion, in less than a minute, in fact. In case we do run out of kits, we have a system in place where we can get them to the delegates in five to 10 minutes,” says Sandeep.

Even as delegates keep trooping in to collect their passes/kits and then wandering out, jute bags over their shoulders and engrossed in the handbook/schedule, there seem to be many people who have come to request for passes because they weren’t able to register for the fete on time.

Keerthana B., one of the volunteers, says that she, along with 11 of her classmates on duty, has been dealing with such requests since the cell opened. “This is my first time as a volunteer and I’ve mastered the art of handling people of all kinds – happy, excited, angry, tense, calm... It’s those people in search of passes, desperation writ on their faces, that really get to you. We do try and accommodate such requests as much as possible, especially people from other parts of the State and the country. Then again, the excitement on the faces of the delegates as soon as they get their hands on their passes and kits is unbeatable,” she adds.

Indeed, many delegates can be found sitting in the shade all around the pavillion, pouring over their handbooks and schedules. We catch up with one of them, 20-year-old engineering student Siyan K.S. from Kovalam. This is his first time at the fete. “I’ve always wanted to attend IFFK. I’m a huge fan of world cinema, thrillers, especially. I dream of becoming a filmmaker one day and because of that I really like analysing movies, the more complex the better. I’m really looking forward to the fete.” So is delegate A.M. Basheer, a ‘Gulf’ returnee, who is attending his fourth fete, this time with his wife, Jayakumari. “I travel from Attingal everyday to attend the fete and like to watch at least one film from each country featured at the fete. Last year I saw some 30 films,” says Basheer.

The delegate cell will work out of Tagore theatre till December 8, following which it will be shifted to the Kairali complex. “From then on we'll be dealing more with grievances of delegates,” says Sandeep.

This time around the delegate cell has organised a fleet of pink autos and SheTaxis, apart from 30 other autos to ferry delegates from one theatre to the other. They will run till 11.30 p.m. Also, this year, for each screening, three balcony seats will be reserved for physically challenged delegates.