An overflowing audience of film lovers, vibrant with silent excitement, watched the 15th International Film Festival of Kerala unfurl at the Nishagandhi open air auditorium here on Friday evening.

Werner Herzog, a German film maker who had broken and keeps breaking all known concepts of film making, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the inaugural function. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan handed over the award to him on behalf of the Kerala Chalachitra Academy as drumbeats, cymbals and applause sounded in the auditorium.

As guest of honour on the stage was Waheeda Rehman, the heartthrob of yesteryear Hindi cinema. She and Jnanpith Award-winning poet O.N.V. Kurup were honoured by the academy at the function.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Achuthanandan said cinema represented creative reproduction of the subtle aspects of life. In that, there was universality and timelessness in cinema, just as in other sublime forms of art.

Minister for Cultural Affairs M.A. Baby, who presided over the function, said this festival, which had grown a great deal in stature over the years in the international film festival circuit, was meant to inspire creativity. The event had evolved as a natural outcome of the film club movement in the State. Speaking of the enthusiasm in the State for good cinema, he said the government’s dream was to turn Kerala into a “fully cinema-literate State.” He spoke of the initiatives the government was taking to fulfil this dream.

Festival Director K.R. Mohanan, giving an overview of the screenings during the eight days of the event, said thematic identity and programming content were being widely acknowledged as its strong points. The focus of the event was the best of cinema from third world countries, while providing the audience a feast of the best of cinema from other parts of the world as well.

Film maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, festival’s artistic director Bina Paul, Thiruvananthapuram Mayor K. Chandrika, MLA V. Sivankutty and office-bearers of various organisations of cinema artistes were among those on the dais. Leading practitioners of the art of cinema from various parts of the world were among those in the audience.

The inaugural function was followed by the screening of the Iranian film ‘Please Don’t Disturb’ directed by Mohsen Abdolvahab.

There was heavy rush for seats in all 10 theatres where the festival films were being shown. Spanish flamenco film ‘Carmen’ by Carlos Saurav, Costa Rican film ‘Of Love and Other Demons’ by Hilda Hidalgo and German film ‘Love is Colder than Death’ by Fassbinder were among the films screened during the day.