Ahead of BIFFes, Bangalore’s filmmakers talk about the relevance of film festivals

Bengaluru International Film Festival in 2016

Bengaluru International Film Festival in 2016   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

In this age of streaming platforms, will festivals lose their relevance?

Film festivals, especially over the last decade, have been mushrooming across India. A census is difficult and unavailable as many of them are either irregular or nonrecurrent. But in all four corners of the country, there is at least one to sate the appetite of film enthusiasts for world cinema. In the ‘70s and ‘ 80s, however, this wasn’t the case. There was only one major festival, the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which travelled to several cities. Some of these cities also had fledgling film societies that screened international cinema. To watch and celebrate cinema, people from other parts of the country had to travel to these places. Only a few would, regularly. One of them was Kamal Haasan.

“I used to run towards every place that had a film festival. Some of the best films I have seen was in Bangalore,” he recounted whilst inaugurating the sixth edition of Bangalore International Film Festival in 2013. As with IT, he’d said, the city can become a centre for international cinema.

Bengaluru, which had a budding cinema community since the ‘70s, hosted IFFI in 1980 and 1992. It started its own international festival two years after Goa was fixed as a permanent venue for IFFI in 2004. Some cities, like Chennai, already had their own festivals by then.

How film festivals help filmmakers?
  • Roopa Rao: It helps a lot, especially for indie filmmakers. If at all we get an award, it helps to promote the film. And, usually, the festival audience are the first to see the film (before the theatrical release). So, we get an idea of how people will react to the film.
  • Pawan Kumar: Not just as a filmmaker. Even as a person, it helps you understand complex subjects. I remember watching a film on homosexuality in 2002. And, it helped me have a more nuanced understanding of the subject than many of my friends even then.
  • Girish Kasaravalli: When you watch films from Iran or Poland, you get to know the mood of that country. You get to know different perspectives. And, it is a way of exchanging ideas. You can also get to see how the idiom of cinema is changing year after year.
  • Mansore: I learnt a lot of things. How movies don’t have a theory. How budget doesn’t matter but subject does. How you don’t always need a hero and a heroine to tell a story. The narrative techniques and the realism from my movies were learnt from the festival.
  • B Suresh: When you watch a film like Jallikattu or Ee Ma Yau or Kumbalangi Nights, you tend to imbibe certain things from the film. When you make the film, you try to do the same thing. It could be a copy, it could be an inspiration or it could just be a technique that you are trying to emulate.

The first edition of Suchitra Bangalore International Film Festival, was held during December 22-28 in 2006 in collaboration with Suchitra Film Society, which, started in 1971, is among the country’s oldest film clubs that are active. About 20 film personalities — Indian and international — attended the event, wherein 35 films were presented in three screens.

The 12th edition of the festival, now called the Bangalore International Film Festival (BIFFes) and organised by Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, will be held from February 26 to March 4.

“The event has grown incrementally over the years,” says N Vidyashankar, the artistic director of BIFFes. This year will have over 600 film personalities and a footfall of over a lakh. Over 200 films will be shown in 14 screens across four venues.

Film festivals have their own charm. For instance, Roopa Rao, who made the critically acclaimed Gantumoote, recalls a visit to IFFI in Goa 16 years ago, where her dream to be a filmmaker was sown. “I was not even actively pursuing filmmaking then. But I just saw the posters and the lights and I remember telling myself that I would come back here as a filmmaker… which I did.” Roopa, 38, however, says festivals weren’t a major source of learning for her. “Internet and torrents happened,” she says, in the last 10 years.

Relevance of festivals

Even a star like Kamal Haasan had to forage for international films. In this age of streaming platforms, accessibility isn’t a problem. So, will the relevance of festivals diminish?

But there are at least three reasons why festivals are still significant.

One: as filmmaker and president of Suchitra Film Society, B Suresh says, “Most of these streaming platforms don’t have arthouse cinema from, say, Congo or Ethiopia. They don’t have political content — like cinema that caters to women’s issues. They mostly sell content that have sex, crime and violence.”

Two: festivals aren’t just about screenings; at least the big ones are a confluence of filmmakers, where ideas get exchanged. “You get to meet people from all over the world. You get to know their process of making the film, how they raise funds. Sometimes knowing their difficulties can help us find our path,” says Suresh.

Three: festivals are also a platform for makers to know more about their industry. For instance, the upcoming edition of BIFFes features a Film Bazaar, which includes interactive sessions on crafting web series, AI in filmmaking among other things.

Mindset for a festival

Girish Kasaravalli, one of the pioneers of parallel cinema in India, is a regular at BIFFes. On how much a festival can impact the region’s film industry, he says, “Festivals are just a platform; it all depends on how people make use of it.”

Kasaravalli reckons a film festival shouldn’t be attended with the mindset of going for a Friday release. He calls for seriousness. “Some people come to the festival to pass time. It is not just about watching movies. A film festival is a cultural activity. On a given day, you have to choose between 10 or 11 movies to watch. So, you have to do a lot of background research. While entering a movie, you should know who the film’s director, its contemporary relevance, its reviews… these things matter.”

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:32:52 PM |

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