Bengalaru International Film Festival has succeeded in drawing the audience out of their homes. People are queuing up at cinema halls.

Enter Sigma Mall at 2:45 p.m., there are a few people milling around the mall entrance near the food stalls. Walk in and go up to Fun Cinemas, one of the venues of the Bengaluru International Film festival. It is only just a little more crowded than usual.

Stick around for another 15 minutes, doing your job and soon there is a line, organized by an MC on the mike who is announcing the films running in the three screens and ushering people into the line. By 3:15 after a few rounds up and down the lift, the line has grown and continues to be fed by people streaming in through the jam-packed lifts. And you can see that the Film Festival is showing signs of success, even if you hear of people having to wait for second or third screenings of films such as Bekas and Jatta because of packed halls.

And as one enters the Lido screens at 4 p.m., the same day, one is told that it is a packed house. There is no chaos about oversold passes, though there were incidents, earlier, of screens exceeding capacity and audiences having to come back to watch another screening. There were a few hiccoughs in the schedule, with a few last-minute changes and a few complains about disorganized volunteers.

But overall, the 6th edition of the Bengaluru International Film Festival, seems to have taken one step further in its evolution. “I see that the crowd is a good mixture of youngsters and senior citizens. There are film students and senior professionals, I see veterans like Girish Kasaravalli and many cinematographers. It’s good so see the next generation of filmmakers here,” says actor Venkatesh Prasad who was on his way to see the German film Housten.

“Film festivals are instrumental in bringing about cultural exchange and feature films, are best watched on a big screen. Besides, human beings are social animals so instead of just sitting on the couch watching a movie all alone, one would always like to come and watch a film with a crowd.”

While literature student Junayd says he is drawn to film festivals because they are informative, impulsive and realistic. “I think they reflect life,” he says. “Some of the movies I loved are Secrets of Love (Poland) and Short Term 12(USA), movies like these break our stereotypical world views and bring in new perspectives of life. Watching these films in the theatre is completely different experience, I can’t bring myself to watch them on a laptop. When I come here to watch a film, I leave all my tensions, everything behind me.”

“We decided volunteer in the festival because our seniors were a part of it and we were looking to get some exposure in the industry,” said a group of girls from a city-based management institute. “We see there are a lot of people here, especially in the mall screens though Sulochana is also drawing a certain crowd because of the master classes. We think festivals such as this offer good exposure to films that are not just commercial. And people come to be part of the whole theatre experience. We are in a city where people appreciate films so naturally one would want to be a part of a crowd like that.”

Though there is nothing new about the idea of a film festival, considering it happens around the world, it is wonderful that Bangaloreans are able to go and watch an array of films from around the world, observes Sydney-based filmmaker N. Sudarshan whose Kannada film Tallana was screened yesterday, noting that there are over 150 films being screened from about 60 countries. “That’s very good,” he says “because there are thousands of films and people don’t always know what to watch. There is so much trash out there. In a festival, there is editorial control, people can trust that the films they get to see here are watchable. And after the film they can get together and discuss, which seldom happens online,” he explains. “Festivals are an opportunity for viewers to discuss what they thought and share their responses with the filmmakers. Downloading and watching films is not good for the filmmaker as the viewer is able to access the film and the filmmaker does not get anything out of it.”

So, as Sudarshan puts it, even if people have to wait for the second or third screening to watch films like Bekas (Iraq) and Jatta (Kannada), it’s a good sign because it means people are coming to watch the films.

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