Bring Your Own Film Festival: a platform for budding filmmakers 

There is no selection, no jury and no awards for the films screened at this unique festival where anyone who has a film can show it on the sandy beaches of Puri

Updated - February 22, 2023 10:52 pm IST

Published - February 22, 2023 08:27 pm IST - PURI

Delegates are seen as they inaugurate the “Bring Your Own Film Festival” (BYOFF) at Puri on Tuesday evening at Puri.

Delegates are seen as they inaugurate the “Bring Your Own Film Festival” (BYOFF) at Puri on Tuesday evening at Puri. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The sound of crashing waves mixes with excited chatter as the sun begins to set at Puri beach on the Odisha coast. In a makeshift tent, filmmakers of different hues lounge in the breeze, soaking up the atmosphere. No hierarchy exists here — all are equal in their admiration for the films screened and the exchange of ideas that flows freely.

For two decades, the Bring Your Own Film Festival (BYOFF), a unique event bereft of corporate sponsorship, has been drawing both filmmakers and film lovers to this coastal town. The 20th edition of the event began on Tuesday and will witness the screening of over 70 films from different genres, durations, and parts of the country before it concludes on February 25.

Delegates are seen as they inaugurate the “Bring Your Own Film Festival” (BYOFF) at Puri on Tuesday evening at Puri.

Delegates are seen as they inaugurate the “Bring Your Own Film Festival” (BYOFF) at Puri on Tuesday evening at Puri. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“BYOFF’s uniqueness lies in the approach of the organisers – there is no selection, no jury and no awards for the films screened; and anyone who has a film can show it here. There is no hierarchy, no bureaucracy; it’s just the sun, the sand, the sea, cinema and more,” said Susanta Mishra, convenor of the festival.

Low fee, high participation

Since 2004, filmmakers have been showcasing their creativity through short-duration or long format films at BYOFF. Films are screened for hours and sometimes go on into the early hours of the morning. Initially, makeshift tents were put up for the festival, but the sweltering heat has forced organisers to go for open air screenings after sunset, Mr. Mishra said.

The registration fee is minimal, ranging from ₹350 to ₹2000 for the five-day period, including free dinner for filmmakers.

During the past two decades, more than 10,000 delegates and 3,500 filmmakers have participated. A filmmaker who does not get other platforms to exhibit his or her creation or faces rejections will find BYOFF a perfect platform to share their art with film lovers.

“My relationship with BYOFF is very emotional as I was among the first few attendees in the first edition of the festival. I have repeatedly come here over the years. When I came here for the first time, we thought that we were doing this once. Film enthusiasts, not just from the eastern part of India, but people had come from Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi. It was such a beautiful gathering and all of us really felt there was some promise in it. So we could dream together,” said Q, a filmmaker from West Bengal who has shortened his name to the single letter.

The filmmaker had chosen to premier his film – Super Tushi, the story of a ‘superheroine’ who is a maid – at BYOFF, rather than at a bigger film festival.

Pitching opportunities

BYOFF is now evolving into its next phase as a pitching platform. This year, the festival has collaborated with AAO-Next, an Odia online OTT platform, so young, upcoming filmmakers can pitch their projects and gain support to produce their films.

Apart from film screenings, the festival also provides a platform for film enthusiasts to sing, dance, showcase paintings, sculptures and photographs, present enactments, and share ideas. Discussions on the art of making films can be heard on every corner. For those newly entering the world of cinema, there is no better place to be.

“BYOFF is a most unusual film festival as it does not have the backing of any corporate house or government. For young generation filmmakers, this is a major platform. There have been instances of filmmakers mentioning their participation here in their profiles. The festival addresses the transitional phase of a student graduating as professional filmmaker,” said Kapilash Bhuyan, a filmmaker and core member of BYOFF.

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