Cinema The 17th edition of the IFFKerala, which begins today, has an exciting line-up of films, including the Asian premiere of Midnight’s Children. Saraswathy Nagarajan

The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), renowned for elevating the conventional film festival platform from a niche (read elite) cultural space to a collective, democratic, popular and populous one, brings together the best of world cinema to Kerala with a focus on the ‘Global South’.

The 17th IFFK keeps its standards intact with an assortment of films that is perhaps umatched by any other film festival on the sub-continent.

A Hitchcock film flags off the festival today with a painstakingly restored British Film Institute print of the 1927 film The Ring . The film, centered on the theme of boxing, will have a live orchestra rendition accompanying the screening. The orchestra will be led by British jazz musician Soweta Kinch. The choice of this film is to highlight the importance of film preservation in the context of hundred years of Indian cinema and 75 years of Malayalam cinema.

The seven days to follow will showcase the best of contemporary and classic cinema from around the world. In the competition section, where 14 films will vie for the coveted Crow Pheasant Awards, the focus is on Asia, Africa, Latin America. There are two Malayalam films ( Bhoomiyude Avakasikal by T.V. Chandran and Shutter by Joy Mathew) and two Indian Films ( I.D by Kamal K.M. and Filmistaan by Nitin Kakkar) in the competition.

Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta’s latest work, a screen adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, will have a gala Asian premiere as part of the World Cinema screenings.

IFFK has retrospectives of thespians and auteurs, past and present. It has works by Australian film legend Paul Cox (who chairs the competition jury), Burkina Faso film director and screenwriter Pierre Yameogo, French master filmmaker Alain Resnais, the Japanese genius Akira Kurasowa, Brazilian actor Helena Ignez, Alfred Hitchcock and Malayalam actor Sathyan. Each package includes significant works and milestones from their filmographies, thereby providing a glimpse into the life and art of the film maker/actor.

Concerns of the oppressed and the sidelined dominate the focus section of the 17th IFFK. Indigenous films that dwell upon the experiences of the aborigines finding their own voice in this medium (curated by Anne Demie Geroe who is also a member of the jury), a cross section of films reflecting new and emerging Vietnamese cinema and a Sri Lankan package with notable voices such as Prasanna Jayakoti, Jayanta Chandrasiri and Asoka Handagama are highlights of this festival. Thematic packages include films on adolescence, with content centered on young heterosexuality, peer relationships, institutional management of adolescence and coming-of-age plots. Theatre films are also on offer, with films adapted from plays ranging from Hamlet to Kanchana Sita, making this package worth a watch to revisit the joy of the celebrated texts crossing over from a uni-dimensional stage to a multi-dimensional screen.

Another value addition is the ‘Top Angle Indian Cinema’ section giving an aerial view of offbeat filmmaking in India. Made by acclaimed filmmakers and promising directors, some of the films in this section are Gajendra Ahire’s Touring Talkies , Ajita Suchitra Veera’s The Ballad of Rustom , and Arvind Iyer’s first Drapchi. The package also has Girish Kasaravalli's latest work, Kurmavatara .

Malayalam Cinema Now showcases the most recent works of contemporary filmmakers Madhupal ( Ozhimuri ), Manoj Kana ( Chayilyam ), Dr. Biju ( Akasathinte Niram ), Lijin Jose ( Friday ), Arun Kumar Aravind ( Ee Adutha Kaalathu ), Ranjith ( Indian Rupee ) and K. Gopinathan ( Ithra Maathram ).

Along with the films screenings, the festival will also have discussions, forums and workshops. Leading cinematographers Santosh Sivan, Govind Nihalani and Anil Mehta will discuss the aesthetics of the digital shift in the medium. The screenings at IFFK will see a radical change this year with 35mm prints being slowly edged out by the high quality Digital Cinema Projections.

G. Aravindan Memorial lecture will be delivered by the legendary Souleymane Cissé, the first African filmmaker to win a prize at the Festival De Cannes. The lecture will look at the concept and purpose of co-productions with respect to third world countries and whether the industries in those countries have benefitted from co-productions.

The much-anticipated signature film for this edition of the IFFK is made by T.P. Surej and team. This evening will open the same as well, along with the 17th International Film Festival of Kerala.