The experience was limited to buying ticket and then watching films
The fifth edition of the Bangalore International Film Festival (Biffes), held here over the past week, showcased some of the best from the world of international cinema – 185 films in 50 languages – not to mention a wide range of domestic contemporary cinema. The city’s cinephiles no doubt lapped up the opportunity to watch this well-curated selection of films.
But did this edition of Biffes make the cut, as far as film fests go? For starters, the festival had a huge limitation in terms of the number of people it could accommodate. With seven screens spread across four venues, one would imagine that the festival would have been able to accommodate Bangalore’s film enthusiasts. However, five out of seven screens were in multiplexes, which meant that each hall could only seat 200-250 people. The organisers reportedly issued over 2,500 passes, when the total number of seats they claim is around 1,500.
Many people, especially over the weekend, returned without watching the film, though they had paid for the daily passes. Others complained that buying daily passes was not easy, and there was some mix-up in schedules leading to advancement of some screenings.
Apart from organisational lapses, did the venues fail in providing that which film festival regulars term “festival ambience”. Barring two venues, all other screens were located in multiplexes that were housed in large malls. This meant that the movie-going experience was limited to obtaining a pass or a ticket and then watching the film.
“The most important element of a film festival is the ambience. Apart from the actual watching of a film, there are discussions and conversations about the film. In a mall set-up, there is no scope for any of this,” says Manoj Kana, a Malayalam film director, whose film Chayilyam was screened here. He points out that the earlier film festivals in Goa, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram had ample space for people to meet. For instance, he says, budding filmmakers and even cinema students learn a lot from meeting international directors. “That is vital.”
Speaking to reporters here, K. Gopinathan, member of the jury for the Kannada Film Competition at the Bangalore International Film Festival (Biffes), also lamented the lack of an “educative ambience”. “It’s obviously a commercial complex, so there are people who have come shopping or to eat. Where is the space for people to sit together, discuss and deliberate?” he says, adding that the “spirit” of a film fest is missing.
Gautam, a film student from Pune, agrees. He points out that the whole charm of a festival lies in the opportunity to “meet like-minded people, discuss and deliberate.” “Most other film festivals are held in regular cinema halls or in complexes. This allows space for people to sit together.”
Director Girish Kasaravalli, who has attended 19 important international film festival this year, says that while the film festival has been “a success” in terms of screening quality films, there is a “lack of discussion on films that are screened.”
However, festival organisers strike a defensive note, when asked about this criticism. H.N. Narahari Rao, artistic director of the festival, says screening in malls have their own set of advantages. “Because this was in a mall, it was possible to screen films with all the formats in the technically advanced screens. Actually, in Mumbai, Chennai and Goa, they faced problems because DVDs in KDM (Key Delivery Message) format would not open and shows had to be cancelled,” Mr. Rao claimed.
Most film festivals have permanent venues. When asked if Karnataka had plans to move from the current model, executive director, Department of Information, N. Vishnu Kumar, conceded that screening in malls was a “very costly proposition.” “It will be better to have a permanent venue.”
To add to the ticketing and space woes, was the civic mess in front of Garuda Mall, where the BBMP’s civic works raised a stench.