To give a fillip to the cultural ties between India and Pakistan, the first edition of “Delhi International Film Festival”, to be held in the Capital from December 21 to 27, will see the participation of 12 film-makers from the neighbouring country.

Bollywood actor Sharmila Tagore, who will be honoured with the Life Time Achievement Award at the festival, has expressed happiness over the organiser’s decision to extend invitation to prominent film-makers from Pakistan and other South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries.

“I am delighted that the festival is concentrating on giving an ideal platform to film-makers from SAARC countries. It is important to give a fillip to cultural activities through festivals such as this one. Such activities help in reviving track II diplomacy and bring closeness between the peoples of neighbouring countries,” said Ms. Tagore, at a Press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The Pakistani films revolve around divergent issues like the all-important issue of terrorism, which has spread its ugly tentacles in the sub-continent, and the relationship between a couple.

According to Kashmiri film-maker Suresh Goswami, who is also the festival secretary, Pakistani film-makers including those living in the United States and the United Kingdom are eager and enthusiastic to arrive in Delhi and interact with their Indian counterparts during the weeklong festival.

Those Pakistanis who cannot afford expensive air fares will be travelling by the special Lahore-Delhi bus service. “Film-makers from across the border appreciate meaningful films and are keen to explore different dimensions of cinema in the workshops conducted by Indian film-makers. We want the public to appreciate films from Pakistan which forge a connection between the people of the two nations,” said Mr. Goswami.

His film Ziyarat on the displacement of Kashmiri Pandit families from the Valley will be screened at the festival.

“Though it was not a commercial proposition, Ziyarat nevertheless managed to get critical acclaim. It was screened at the Tehran International Film Festival. It speaks about three different issues. It highlights the woes of Pandits who were forced to migrate from their ancestral land. Secondly, it clears the misconception that Muslims were responsible for the exodus of Pandits from Jammu and Kashmir. Thirdly, it tells that one can do a pilgrimage by doing noble deeds like coming to the rescue of one’s beleaguered neighbour.”

Mr. Goswami’s short film titled My Heroes, focusing on the achievements of differently-abled children, will also be screened.

Film-maker Tigmanshu Dhulia, who has been roped in for the festival, will be conducting one of the three workshops. Madhur Bhandarkar and Sriram Raghavan will be also be special guests at the festival which will be inaugurated by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

Interestingly, the festival to commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema will be presenting centenarian stage actor Zohra Sehgal, who catapulted into limelight by doing theatre for noted film-maker and actor Prithviraj Kapoor, with the Minare Dilli award.

While Polish film 80 Million will be the opening film, Pakistani production Lamha will be screened as the closing film. “Mohammad Rafi Memorial Night”, launch of books on films and literature and seminars are other features of the festival.

In all, 178 films from 32 countries would be screened.