Fete The thematic focus of this year's Vibgyor International Film Festival in Thrissur is political filmmaking and media activism in South Asia. C.S. Venkiteswaran

I n this age of visual excess, where films and images are aplenty and freely available in the form of DVDs and through P2P networks and torrents, many cineastes feel that film festivals are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Why bother to go to a festival to watch films that are otherwise available on your personal computer and can be watched at your convenience and leisure? In such a context, it is imperative on the part of any serious film festival with a political vision to create new contexts of viewing. This can be done only by giving relevant thematic focus to the selection of packages in order to bring into view visual narratives that are getting marginalised in the one-way flood of global and globalised narratives. This is also the only way in which Third World cinemas can confront and critically engage with the hegemonic linearity of the market narrative that rules our vision.

Vibgyor International Film Festival in Thrissur has been one such attempt in Kerala that has consistently focussed on the marginalised sections of society and radical themes. This year's edition, the sixth, is titled ‘Mazhavilmela' and will be held at the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi Campus, Thrissur from January 12 to 16, 2011. Through its political commitment reflected in the selection of themes and packages, and its participatory approach in the conduct of the festival, Vibgyor has carved a niche for itself and is arguably one of the biggest independent, alternative film festivals in South Asia.

As a tribute

Vibgyor 2011 is rightly dedicated to the memory of late C. Saratchandran, founder member of Vibgyor, and the most prominent documentary filmmaker and media activist from Kerala, who passed away in March last year. In fact, it was Sarat who pioneered initiatives of similar kind by organising the Nottam Travelling Film Festival and establishing ‘Third Eye,' as an alternative forum for film production, exhibition and distribution.

He was the moving spirit behind Vibgyor and instrumental in keeping the festival apace with contemporary trends in political documentary filmmaking in India and abroad. Paying homage to the departed friend and comrade, Vibgyor 2011 will begin with the Sarat Memorial Lecture by Medha Patkar on January 12.

The thematic focus of this year's festival is political filmmaking and media activism in South Asia. The festival features around 100 short and documentary films and includes several events such as a film appreciation workshop for young people, several thematic conferences and cultural exhibitions and programmes apart from a farm and food fair to add to the festive spirit.

Focus on South Asia

The Vibgyor spectrum, titled ‘Celebrating Identities and Diversities,' which includes films on theme such as identities, rights, development, nation state, gender and sexuality, fundamentalism and culture and media, this year, has special focus on South Asia, in an attempt to showcase the pertinent socio-political circumstances and issues faced by nations and peoples in the region.

This year's retrospectives include films of Silvio Tendler from Brazil, who is known as the ‘filmmaker of interrupted voices' and Normar Marcos, critic, filmmaker and journalist from Palestine. Other packages include a Festival Director's Special that has documentaries selected by Anand Patwardhan such as ‘Divorce: Iranian Style' by Kim Longinotto, ‘Prison and Paradise' by Daniel Rudi Haryanto, ‘Inshallah, Football' by Aswin Kumar and ‘Qana' by Mohammadreza Abbasian, and a Kerala Spectrum Package, with a number of films made by and for children and a package of short fiction and experimental films.

As the name suggests, Vibgyor is conceived as a celebration of the diversity of human spirit, expressed through the medium of cinema. The selection of films will present the diverse and diverging expressions of resistance and survival from all over the world. Apart from bringing together an array of films, the festival would also be a vibrant platform for interactions with filmmakers, activists, academicians, students and cineastes from all walks of life and various parts of the country.