Captive audience: film festivals come home

Woman at home sitting on sofa, watching movie and eating popcorn. Flat vector cartoon illustration home comfort concept.

Woman at home sitting on sofa, watching movie and eating popcorn. Flat vector cartoon illustration home comfort concept.  

Dharamshala International Film Festival sets up online viewing room on its website, where it will be streaming its alumni’s films, free of cost to viewers across the world.

“Bringing independent cinema to the mountains” has been the catchline of the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF). Now, it’s unspooling the indies on a computer, laptop, mobile or tablet near you. In a unique attempt in the Indian film festival circuit, DIFF set up an online Viewing Room on its website on Tuesday, where it will be streaming its alumni’s films, free of cost to viewers across the world.

DIFF will be showcasing a set of four to six films every couple of weeks.

The idea of sharing the films that the festival has showcased over the years took root ten days back. “Seeing the situation, the fact that everyone is at home, we thought of doing something positive,” says festival director and filmmaker Ritu Sarin. They reached out to the alumni filmmakers and were overwhelmed by the tremendous response they got in return.

“With COVID-19 reshaping the world, we have been thinking about how to reach out [to the DIFF regulars and patrons] and at the moment the filmmakers also don’t know what the future holds for them,” said Ms. Sarin. The idea then, for all, has been to keep up the spirits and seek inspiration in these uncertain times in cinema itself.

The entire venture is being run on the goodwill between the filmmakers and the festival. “DIFF is run by a no-profit trust. It’s [Viewing Room] in keeping with the spirit of the festival,” said Ms. Sarin.

The programming, too, reflects the festival’s thrust — politically and socially conscious cinema. At a time when online content consumption is rising exponentially, DIFF is not offering the regular popular stuff but a carefully curated list of rare, alternate films with artistic merit, underlined with a humane touch and reflecting the political realities of our times. When we are being forced to shut out the world, these films open a small window to it; when individuals and their respective countries are in a lockdown mode, they offer a fantastic, expansive political and cultural peep into our uncomfortable realities.

Thoughtful selection

Sean McAllister’s A Syrian Love Story (2015) is a heartbreaking documentary that dwells on the human toll in the Middle Eastern conflict, through its focus is on five years of the life of a couple that first fell in love in a Syrian prison and fled to France via Lebanon to seek political asylum. But could they truly abandon the home called Syria?

Naeem Mohaiemen’s experimental film Tripoli Cancelled (2017) looks at the unsettling feeling between being at home and in asylum through a week in the life of a man stranded in an abandoned airport. Jeon Soo-Il’s A Korean in Paris (2015) is about a man cast away in the French capital in search of his wife who suddenly goes missing on their honeymoon. Prasanna Vithanage’s With You Without You (2013) juxtaposes the healing power of love against personal traumas and political strife in the wake of the Civil War in Sri Lanka.

Coming up in the weeks ahead — Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 5 Broken Cameras, Abhay Kumar’s Placebo (2014), Andrew Hinton and Johnny Burke’s Tashi and the Monk (2014) and Ritu Sarin and Tanzing Sonam’s When Hari Got Married (2013).

More festivals

Meanwhile, Jio Mami Mumbai Film Festival With Star, even as it opened for entries for its next edition in November, has begun sharing a comprehensive list of films across 21 years that have been screened at the festival and in their year round programme, also pointing out the streaming platforms where these titles can be accessed. The festival came up with the first list of international and Indian (both features and shorts) films for the year 2019 on Sunday.

New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) might have been postponed for the while but, to stay in touch with its members and supporters, festival director Aseem Chhabra has begun recommending one film or show a week — kicking off with Aijaz Khan’s Hamid — that is available on streaming platforms in the U.S. They are calling it the weekly ‘NYIFF At Home Festival’.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:37:03 AM |

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