Ladakh conjures images of Himalayan peaks, stark blue skies marked by the flutter of faded Tibetan prayer flags, cold gusts of wind sending ripples over stoic mountain lakes, and of motorbike riders and backpackers out to challenge the rugged terrain. The removed paradise holds a lot of solace and emptiness. No wonder an avid audience for world cinema exist there.
Tapping this interest, the Ladakh International Film Festival has been designed, and scouting for film-makers and films at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) was Meghna Dubey, the co-founder and the director of operations of the ‘Highest Altitude Film Festival in the World’.
Speaking to The Hindu , she said logistical challenges had been overcome to stage in June earlier this year, a successful three-day film festival that saw the screening of 66 films. The brainchild of a Malayali film-maker, Melwyn Williams, the idea was floated when Director Biju was in the process of shooting his film, Veettilekkula Vazhi (The Way Home), which premiered in October 2010. Mr. Williams coordinated with Ms. Meghna to convene a core team and subsequently give shape and form to a film festival for the people of Ladakh.
“Two years of research preceded the materialisation of the festival this year,” said Ms. Meghna, adding the support of the chairperson, renowned film-maker Shyam Benegal and patrons such as Shekhar Kapur, Shaji N. Karun, Govind Nihlani, Vishal Bharadwaj and Madhur Bhandarkar proved invaluable.
The region had absolutely no facilities for the event. “The Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council and the Tourism Department of the Jammu and Kashmir government supported us and set up in record time an auditorium with a seating capacity for 350, a 35 mm projector and 5.1 Dolby sound system,” said Ms. Meghna. Two makeshift theatres were put together as well, with special projection screens brought from New Delhi.
“People came from all over Ladakh; there was one from every household,” she said. Among other attendees were Army personnel.