Hundreds of people felt the plight of a woman trapped in a trench amidst a civil war in Iran. The exhibition of ‘Women Run with the Wolves’ at the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) was highly acclaimed by the audience who also witnessed the rampant exploitation prevalent in the Congo region, through a documentary called ‘Congo Calling’, premiered at KIFF.
The ‘International Film Festival of India’ (IFFI) started in 1952 and was restricted to Delhi in the initial years. The event was held in Kolkata for three times - in 1982, 1990 and 1994. 1995, gave the people of Kolkata, an opportunity to rejoice as the city got its own film festival. Since then, the event has increasingly become popular.
Speaking on the impact of this global exposure on the regional film industry, Pradipta Bhattacharyya, a national award-winning filmmaker told BE, “It is an achievement for a film festival to cross the landmark of 25 years. This global exposure has definitely led to some significant works in the Bengali film industry and has shaped a few of good directors. But I don’t think it has led to the production of any work of international standard from our film industry.”
Once a solemn annual affair for the city’s film enthusiasts, the inauguration of the KIFF of late, has turned into an extravagant occasion. Soumendu Bhattacharya, Head of the Department, Department of Direction, Roopkala Kendro told BE, “I felt there has been an increase in the number of selected audience and film students this year in comparison to the past few years, which is a positive sign. The introduction of various events like master classes, seminars and others can be fruitful for film enthusiasts. Also, more people from the film industry are getting involved with the festival. However, only time will tell if their participation is helping or not.”
If the Bengali audience comprises of niche viewers with an eye for good cinema, why are the contemporary art-house movies struggling to convince investors? Tapan Bhattacharya, Faculty Member, Department of Sound Design, Roopkala Kendro and an ex-member of the technical committee, KIFF, told BE, “Cinema requires a huge amount of investment. Now, the investors will invest in the hope of generating a business.” He added, “These investors can be motivated by using the platform of KIFF where they will become aware of the different types of cinema being made worldwide and when they will see that parallel cinema is creating a market for itself.” Bhattacharya is optimistic, that in the near future, KIFF may provide a market for art-house cinema which will stimulate producers to invest in that genre. Incidentally, certain new categories have been introduced in the recent years in the film festival, like the ‘Netpac’ and the ‘Bengali Panorama’, which are expected to boost the makers of art-house cinema in Bengal and India.
153 short films and documentaries were exhibited in this edition of KIFF. Saurav Bhadra, whose short film ‘Bod Jaat’ (The Out Caste) was selected in the competitive category for Indian short films, told BE, “It is a huge opportunity for the short filmmakers in Kolkata as there is no such commercial arena where short films are exhibited. In addition to it, I feel that the projection quality should be improved a little.”
Krishanu Chanda and PrachuryaPatra’s short film ‘EkTukroGondho’ (A Smelly Affair) was made out of a nominal budget of Rs 500 and was exhibited in the non-competitive category. In this category, out of almost 3000 short films, 50 were selected. Chanda told BE, “This is a huge opportunity for short film makers like us. However, I would like to suggest one thing, in this category, it so happens that the big producers exhibit their short films and our films are no match to them. We are pushed out of competition. I feel that the committee should fix a budget limit for this category as the big producers have other categories to compete in, which is not possible for us. I think that this initiative will also inspire a lot of people to try their hands in short film making.”
Film festivals are a great way to present a film. They manage to bring together many people who are interested in certain topics and in cinema itself. It is also a great experience to see a film in the context of other films. Film festivals provide the platform for the exhibition of art and as eminent film personality Shabana Azmi, said in the closing ceremony of KIFF, “Art should be used as an instrument of social change. I believe cinema has this ability and this can be possible if artists are given the freedom of expression.”