The IFFK begins on Friday, promising a fiesta of films, but complaints such as absence of a festival complex remain

In the misty mindscape of December, the State capital turns into a truly cosmopolitan city. Escaping the snow in the higher latitudes come the tourists to savour the warmth of the State. Then there are the film itinerants of eclectic tastes who come from everywhere, all latitudes, nations, States, persuasions, to huddle in cinemas to savour the best of silver screen.

To welcome them, the city is in a festive mood. The 18th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is set to take off from December 6.

But not everything is hunky dory.

Even after winning accolades from internationally renowned film-makers and critics and emerging as one of the prime festivals in the international circuit for the quality of entries and serious participation and involvement of delegates, the constraints that dampened the spirit of the film buffs in the previous years remain unaddressed even now.

The steady increase in the number of delegates every year is a clear proof of the growing popularity of the festival. Still, the government seems to confine its responsibility to doling out Rs. 2.25 crore for meeting the basic needs of the festival.

No central venue

Despite being an annual event since 1998, successive governments have been unable to set up a centralised venue, similar to Inox in Goa, where the International Film Festival of India is held, or Nandan, the West Bengal Film Centre, the venue of Kolkata International Film Festival. Such a venue will give the festival a better focus.

A lion’s share of the Rs. 2.25 crore released to the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy for organising the festival will have to be drained out as rentals for the private cinemas hired for screening the films. Except the four theatres owned by the government, Kalabhavan, Kairali, Sree and Nila, the academy has no option but to enlist the support of the private exhibitors.

As these cinemas are spread out in the city, the delegates will have to race against time to run from one to another to watch the films of their choice. It remains a major drawback of the festival. Most of the cinemas do not have adequate parking space and some still have anachronistic screening, sound system and seating arrangements.

Exhibitors having state-of-the-art facilities are by and large diffident to suspend the regular shows running to packed houses for the festival audience.

The previous Left Democratic Front government, after announcing the setting up of a festival complex in the 15th edition, sanctioned Rs. 50 lakh for footing the preliminary expenses and completed the legislative formalities. The process has not made much headway since then.

A proposal for converting the Tagore Theatre into a cultural complex housing multiple screens, an amphitheatre for staging plays, a cafeteria, a common area for interactions and rooms for delegates and artistes as a BOT (build, operate and transfer) project, in association with the Kerala State Film Development Corporation, seems to have been shot down.

The government then explored the option of providing land at Kowdiar for the festival complex.

This proposal seems to have been caught in interdepartmental squabbles. Another option to provide land at Kazhakuttam remains in limbo. The main reason for the inordinate delay is said to be the lack of commitment of the academy personnel in doggedly tracking the proposals. Once the festival ends, the enthusiasm dies down. It takes another year to discuss the issue once again.

Imperative

Gandhimati Balan, Vice-Chairman of the academy, says the complex is imperative for the conduct of the festival.

“The committed cineastes who reach the city for watching the world classics should be provided with the best conveniences. They are not demanding plush theatres. They want only a centralised facility for watching the films of their choice without any hitch. This can be provided only by the complex and it should be set up without any further delay. It can be safely said that the future of the IFFK rests on the complex,” he says.

The authorities concerned should take a call on setting up the complex at the earliest. It should not get bogged down in differences of opinion over land or other issues, Mr. Balan says.