The preparations for golden jubilee edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) have started in full swing. The 50th IFFI edition (November 20-28, 2019) would trace the history of 49 editions of the festival.
Chaitanya Prasad, IFFI festival director, is at Berlinale to extend invitation to delegates at the ongoing Berlinale and European Film Market.
IFFI will showcase the film culture of each and every region across India and trace the history of IFFI from the 1st to the 49th. Films are made in about 25 different regional languages in India.
IFFI — Asia’s oldest event of its kind, still holds on to its pre-eminent position as a showcase of cinematic excellence.
The International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the oldest event of its kind in Asia, has over the years witnessed numerous alterations in character, nomenclature, location, dates and duration. Through it all, it has remained steadfast in its emphasis on showcasing the diversity of Indian cinema as well as in its commitment to the celebration of excellence across moviemaking genres.
Over the past two and a half decades, several other international film festivals have sprung up across India, notably in Kolkata, Kerala and Mumbai, and they all contribute meaningfully to the collective task of taking quality cinema to a people weaned principally on a staple diet of star-driven, song and dance extravaganzas. But IFFI continues to retain its preeminent position owing to its size, scope and vintage.
Not just in the Indian context but also in relation to the other major Asian film festivals, IFFI matters. And this is despite all the inevitable ups and downs that it has seen over the years.
All the other major Asian festivals – Tokyo, Busan and Shanghai – are of far more recent origin and therefore lack the history that is associated with IFFI, which is now few months shy of its 50th edition. The festival in Tokyo was launched in 1985, the one in Shanghai began in 1993 and the Busan Film Festival came into being in 1996.
IFFI hands out prize money to the tune of US$ 200,000. The winner of the Golden Peacock for the best film takes home $80,000. That apart, the best director and the Special Jury Prize winner bag $30,000 each, while the two acting prizes come with a cash component of $20,000 each.
IFFI also confers two Lifetime Achievement Awards – one to an international film personality, the other to an Indian great. The moves to push IFFI up a few notches have unfolded since the coastal state of Goa became its permanent venue in 2004. IFFI now has a far more settled feel than ever before, with each improvement in terms of infrastructure and programming initiatives adding value to both the event and the location.
On the programming side, IFFI not only unveils the best films from around the multilingual country with the aim of providing a glimpse of the sheer range and dynamism of Indian cinema, it also puts together a remarkable slate of brand new world cinema titles.
IFFI also hosts many retrospectives, tributes, master classes and special sections, which enhance the variety and depth of the event. The master classes have emerged as a highlight of the festival, especially for film school students who converge in Goa during the ten-day event.
India’s first international film festival was organized within five years of the nation attaining Independence. It was a non-competitive event held in 1952 in Bombay (Now Mumbai). A special feature of the inaugural function was the screening of the first film screened in India in 1896 by the Lumiere brothers. Frank Capra was part of the American delegation that attended the festival.
After a fortnight-long run in Bombay, the festival travelled to Calcutta (now Kolkata), Madras (now Chennai) and Delhi. The first international film festival of India is rightfully credited with triggering a burst of creativity in Indian cinema by exposing young Indian filmmakers to the best from around the world, especially to Italian neo-realism.
It isn’t without significance that Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali, was completed in 1955, and Bimal Roy’s classic Hindi film, Do Bigha Zameen, was released in 1953.
Six decades on, IFFI continues to provide a useful platform to young Indian filmmakers who work outside the mainstream distribution and exhibition system and in languages that do not have access to the pan-Indian market that Hindi cinema has.
The Indian Panorama, a section that is made up of both features and nonfeatures, opens global avenues for films made by veterans and newcomers alike.
It wasn’t until 1961 that the second edition of the festival, also noncompetitive and hosted by Delhi, was mounted, but the idea of an itinerant festival had been sown.
In 1965, the year of its third edition, the festival secured ‘A’ category grading from the Paris-based FIAPF (Federation Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films), which brought it on par with the world’s biggest festivals in Venice, Cannes, Berlin, Moscow and Karlovy Vary.
For three decades from the mid-1970s, the festival was held every alternate year in the national capital of Delhi, with other Indian cities – Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram – taking turns to host the event every other year.
IFFI now has a permanent home in Goa. The coastal state has benefitted appreciably from the shift. Its cinema has received a huge fillip in the decade and a half that Panaji has hosted IFFI. Filmmakers in the coastal state have been increasingly making their mark on the national and international stage.