Cineastes who have grown with the film fete

Since it began 18 years ago, the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) has groomed a generation of cineastes on the best of world cinema. Many are the filmmakers and film technicians from the city who dreamed of a future in movies thanks, in part, to IFFK. Today, many of them have come full circle with their own films being screened at the fete. Directors D. Bijukumar, Madhupal, Manoj K.R., Vipin Vijay, Shalini Usha Nair, Arun Kumar Aravind, cinematographer Shehnad Jalal, editor Mahesh Narayanan… MetroPlus talks to some of them on their thoughts about IFFK, how it has impacted them as viewers and on their careers.

Shehnad Jalal, Cinematographer

I’ve been attending IFFK since its third or fourth edition. In those days the film society movement was in full swing in the city, of which I was an active participant. There used to be screenings of world cinema every week under the aegis of some society or the other. So, the film fete was actually a fantastic culmination of a year of world movie watching. IFFK introduced me to the works of filmmakers of the likes of Takashi Kitano, which perhaps I would not have been able to see in those days. But then IFFK’s packages have always been its USP, something that makes it stand out from the crowd. IFFK has always had the distinction of introducing to India the works of young filmmakers from Asia and Latin America, filmmakers like Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Also, it feels really special, a personal milestone, to see my own films (Chitrasutram, Ee Adutha Kalathu and now, Kanyaka Talkies) screened at IFFK. On that note, these days I’m not too fond of attending IFFK screenings simply because the audience is not as disciplined they were once.

Shambu Purushothaman, Filmmaker

The advantage of living in a metro like the city is the access that it gives you to culture. I’ve only been attending IFFK for the past two to three years now so I can’t comment on its evolution. In most film fetes, you get to show the films to an audience of other filmmakers; it’s almost an incestuous process as there will literally be no one from outside the film fraternity to watch the screenings. At IFFK, however, it is the mind-blowing level of response and participation by ordinary cineastes from a cross section of society that makes it unique. Also, I think that it’s largely thanks to the film fete that international filmmakers such as Kim Ki Duk are as familiar to the Malayali audience as an Adoor or an M.T. You simply won’t find that anywhere else.

Vipin Vijay, Filmmaker

Over the years, a large number of people, especially filmmakers like myself have benefitted from IFFK and the idea of a collective on cinema, in the sense that it has given our films an opportunity to be placed in fetes such as Rotterdam. Controversies aside, my diploma film, my feature film, my short film have all been screened at IFFK and I have done a signature film for it too. But whether the fete has played a major role in moulding the filmmaker in me is debatable. More than an influence, though, I think, it is the experience of that collective viewing that has had an impact on all of us. How much the fete has stood up for vernacular films – and that’s not limited to Malayalam cinema but Indian cinema as well – is also debatable. It’s imperative that fetes like IFFK also focus on promoting vernacular and local talent.

Manoj K.R, Filmmaker

It’s my favourite film fete. Even though I was part of the film society movement, a lot of film enthusiasts like myself grew up with IFFK and it’s largely thanks to it that I decided to make a career out of movies. I’ve been participating in each IFFK, since the beginning, when it made its home in the city. I started off as a regular delegate. Over the years I’ve been part of the booklet committee, delegate cell, in charge of the open forum… and now this year my debut feature film Kanyaka Talkies is being screened. I really can’t place where the IFFK has impacted me the most – whether it influenced the filmmaker in me, my filmmaking style or the enthusiasm to make a film in the first place, all of it possibly.

D. Bijukumar, Filmmaker

I am a product of the IFFK. I reached the city as a student just when the first IFFK was being conducted. In those days, it was difficult to get a pass to view movies and so we managed to forge one and get into the theatre. We would sit there through all the screenings and watch films the entire day. Iranian cinema, specially Majidi Majid, and Turkish films blew my mind away. It was like opening my eyes to something totally new. If I am a filmmaker today, it is thanks to the IFFK, which has been mu guru and school. However, my only angst is that, till today, none of my films has ever been selected in the competition section although many of my films have been selected to prestigious competitions the world over. Saira, my very first movie, was screened in the IFFK. It was a great feeling to make the leap from delegate to filmmaker.