The 10th Mumbai International Film Festival

The 10th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) organized from 3 to 9 February, 2008 at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai saw a huge participation from film makers, film lovers, students, media practitioners and other film related personalities across the globe.

Under Construction was present at the festival, sharing stall space with the IDPA. Along with all UC films, the stall also displayed those UC films that were screened at MIFF this year under various sections. These included Mahua Memoirs by Vinod Raja, Tales From the Margins by Kavita Joshi, Where’s Sandra? By Paromita Vohra, Hope Dies Last in War by Supriyo Sen, My Migrant Soul by Yasmin Kabir and Born into Struggle by Rehad Desai.

A Report

The Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) organised by the Films Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India is an international, competitive film festival devoted specifically to documentaries, short films and animation fil Held every two years, MIFF showcases films of a variety of forms and aesthetics made on contemporary issues.

The 10th edition of the festival, organised between February 3 to 9, 2008 at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai, saw a huge participation from film makers, film lovers, students, media practitioners and other film related personalities across the globe.

MIFF is an important space that allows political discourse to be represented through films. And the organiser being none other than the Government of India, the awarded films as well as those in the Competition, get a certain kind of ‘official’ legitimacy. For instance, the Best Documentary film/video in the Indian Competition this year is India Untouched – Stories of a People Apart by Stalin K. The film unflinchingly uncovers the all pervasive, deeply rooted and still existing caste system in twenty-first century India, with chilling evidence that it shows no sign of abating in generations to come. The Second Best Documentary film/video that also won the Indian Critics Award at MIFF 2008 is Mahua Memoirs by Vinod Raja. Beautifully crafted with outstanding visuals and haunting music, the film compassionately exposes the ruthless underside of corporate globalisation through the ongoing decimation of Adivasi lands, people and their cultures throughout India.

MIFF is aesthetically important too as it celebrates the form and narrative styles associated with documentary films. In the opening ceremony, well-known filmmaker Jahnu Barua, also the President of the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA), sharply made key points about the short film and documentary being ignored and the loser being Indian society, deprived of access to a significant work of film makers working outside the commercial stream. Information & Broadcasting Minister P R Das Munshi responded to it when he spoke later.

With the inauguration of MIFF 2008 on February 3, screenings of various films competing in the festival from more than 20 countries including Argentina, Nepal, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, France, Greece, Israel, India, Portugal, UK and Switzerland was organised in the four theaters of NCPA. Tata Theatre, where the opening and closing ceremony was held, also saw the screening of films in the International Competition, Special Screenings and Jury’s Retrospectives. Godrej Theatre had films from Indian Competition and special packages like Films from Jammu and Kashmir, South Africa – From the Margins to the Centre and Films from Brazil. The Experimental Theatre saw the presence of SAARC films, Films from North East India and the screenings of Film Memoirs. Oscar films, Classics, Films on Second World War, Glimpses of Films Division and Expression en Corto, among many more. Godrej Theatre, with the screening of films in Indian Competition, saw a huge crowd, but people had to be stopped from entering because there was no place even to stand in the auditorium. And because there were no repeat screenings of any of the films, some of the film enthusiasts were disappointed as they were forced to miss a few of them.

IIDPA’s presence at the MIFF 2008 was quite prominent. The IDPA information counter or the registration desk at the festival, run by Pooja Takale, was one of the most frequently visited and crowded points at the MIFF. Another important and interesting platform at MIFF 2008 was the Open Forum organised every day by IDPA between 1:30 and 2:30 pm.

February 4, 2008 saw a heated discussion on public service and a space for public service television. Jaganath Guha, Anjali Monteiro and KP Jayasankar discussed the original idea with which TV was started and the way it has worked over the past few decades. The forum discussed the historical overview of the development of public service broadcasting in India, the whole concept of development communication and the changes subsequently happening with economy shifts through globalisation. Guha outrightly rejected the whole concept of public service and explained his inability to see any kind of public service effort by the national broadcaster.

The first day of the Open Forum also saw the coming up of the landmark resolution asking for screening of award winning films on Doordarshan. The idea was mooted by Anand Patwardhan and IDPA took the initiative to take it further through their registration desk at MIFF. The response was overwhelming and the resolution got over a hundred signatures from the film sorority.

The Open Forum on Broadcast and Narrowcast Avenues organised on February 5, 2008 addressed questions like: How do documentary film makers get their work seen? Is community based narrow-casting an avenue? Are the Internet based avenues of distribution here to stay? What do the channels think? Can the cinema halls be opened to documentaries? The session chaired by Chandita Mukherjee saw Vikram Prabhu and Rakesh Sharma as the speakers.

The first session of the Full Day Seminar on February 6, 2008, chaired by Jahnu Barua, discussed the state of exhibition and distribution of documentaries in India, the role of state in ensuring the exhibition of documentaries. Where on one hand the filmmakers wanted theatre halls to give space to the documentaries according to the Supreme Court order, theatre owners’ association expressed their difficulty to screen documentaries but said that they were willing to screen them if they get tax exemption in return.

The second session chaired by Chandita Mukherjee dealt with important issues like what are the channels looking for? How did the present system of pitching emerge? The forum discussed the shift pitching has made as the things have become slightly less Eurocentric because anyone can now pitch. Rada Sesic of Netherland and Geoff Malone participated in the same. Another important issue raised in the open forum was whether the market impacts the making and content of documentaries? Ali Kazmi, Anand Patwardhan, Tom Waugh, Vidyarthy Chatterjee participated in this session chaired by Suvendu Chatterjee. The Open Forum on February 7, 2008 discussed Animation and Social Communication while the one on February 8 explored the Future of film institutes.

The esteemed International Jury for MIFF 2008 had Vijaya Mehta from India, Wu Wenguan from China, Reeves Lehmann from USA, Mani Kaul from India and Frank Scheffer from the Netherlands. The Indian Jury members included Vijaya Mulay from India, Arunaraje Patil from India, Geoff Malone from Singapore, A. K. Bir from India and Ali Kazmi from Canada.

The Critics Jury in the International Competition had A Kutbudin from India, Aijaz Gul from Pakistan and Koen Van Daele from Slovenia while the Critics Jury in the Indian Competition comprised of Uma da Cunha, M. K. Raghavendra and Utpal Borpujapuri from India. In the Homage Section, MIFF 2008 paid rich tributes to three stalwarts of Indian documentary cinema: K. Vishwanath, Girish Vaidya and K. K. Mahajan. The Retrospective section featured packages of three members of international Jury: Wu Wenguan from China, Frank Scheffer from Netherland and Ali Kazmi from Canada.

The eclectic gathering of more than 200 filmmakers, cinematographers, film critics and various people from the film fraternity saw high tech productions combined with vintage delights through a most imaginative and varied screenings of films made across the globe. The festival is bound to have a spiral effect on everyone that attended the extravaganza!

Under Construction at MIFF

Distribution is crucial to the sustainability of documentaries as a genre and Under Construction is working towards this end. Under Construction (UC) is conceived as a non-broadcast, non-commercial distribution initiative for educational films that aims to bridge the gap between educational audio visuals and audiences to facilitate a culture of vibrant discourse as well as the ease of access to an eclectic collection from a single source.

IDPA agreed to share their space of display with UC, for which we are extremely grateful to them. The display space was set up at the Tata Theatre in front of the registration desk. There was a huge amount of crowd passing through these displays everyday, as everyone had to register not only the delegates from all around the world, all the filmmakers, but also general audience who were visiting the festival. And it was because of the display places positioning that we got to meet literally everyone at the film festival.

On display and sale were the various films being distributed by UC, also put on a special stand were those films which were selected at MIFF and screening there under different sections. These include Mahua Memoirs by Vinod Raja, Tales From the Margins by Kavita Joshi, Where’s Sandra? By Paromita Vohra, Hope Dies Last in War by Supriyo Sen, My Migrant Soul by Yasmin Kabir and Born into Struggle by Rehad Desai.

There was an open offer to all the independent filmmakers, to put the copies of their films at our display space, which generated a huge amount of response, as many well known filmmakers, and also those who met for the first time, gave us their films to circulate at the film festival. Many filmmakers present found UC as a very positive and much needed initiative required for distribution of independent films, and some of them saw this as an opportunity to give their films a different kind of exposure. Not just filmmakers but also audience who had come to the film festival were hugely interested in keeping in touch with us, they wanted to know more about UC.

UC used to set up space everyday at the film festival, and also for the opening and closing, on which days it was only in the evenings. This space was proving to be a point of camaraderie, where filmmakers, artists and everyone related to IDPA, who could converge and meet us and talk about the initiative.

Many people found UC’s new cover designs very bright and colorful, and were deeply impressed by the stylisations.

A report by Shruti Nagpal

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