The 20th edition of Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) is just six days away. The eight-day audio-visual extravaganza (November 10-17) is going to enthrall us once again with top-class fare. This can also be considered to be the beginning of the season of festivals and fairs in Kolkata. That the winter-long carnival (of sorts) begins with a festival dedicated to the arts, is so apt for the cultural capital of India, as Kolkata is widely held to be.
New at the 20th KIFF
The one big change this year is going to be the introduction of a new competitive section. It is going to be a specialised section, in that the competition is going to be amongst films directed by women. Thirteen films, out of the 72 sent to the selection committee, have been chosen for this section, having been selected by Sandip Ray and Dipankar Dey. The winner would win the Golden Royal Bengal Tiger statuette, a name synonymous with the animal readily associated with the state. She would also win a cheque of Rs 51 lakh.
The prize money of Rs 51 lakh is significant, in that it's the highest for a film
festival in India. As a comparison, the Golden Peacock winner for the
best film at the IFFI held in Goa gets a cheque of US$75,000, or
approximately Rs 46 lakh.
The international jury for the award would be headed by the eminent Australian director, Paul Cox. Director and actor Amol Palekar is the only Indian in the jury. Other members are Niki Karimi, Iranian actress, director, and screenwriter, Na Renhua, Chinese actress and producer, and the Georgian director, Nino Kirtadze.
The other competitive section is for the NETPAC Award (NETPAC stands for Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema). This was there last year too. The jury members for this award are Sudhir Nandgaonkar, Kim Do Kyung and Somnath Gupta.
L to R: Paul Cox, Niki Karimi, Na Renhua, Nino Kirtadze, Amol Palekar
To go with the introduction of this competitive section on women directors, the theme for this year’s festival has been decided to be ‘Women in Cinema.’ Films from Arabian countries would be part of a special focus section. Films from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Algeria, Palestine and Egypt would find a place here. Other sections that the festival has been divided into include Centenary Tribute, Great Master, Retrospective, New Horizon, Special Tribute, Special Screening, Asian Select, Children's Films, Indian Select, Bengali Panorama, French Classics, Contemporary World Cinema, and Short and Documentary.
Bengali Panorama is a new section introduced this year – a section where five films by Bengali film-makers will be screened. The five films are Char Adhyay, The Kite, Jhumura, Cloud of Daughter and Selfi.
The Great Master section is going to feature seven films by Stanley Kubrick. The Centenary Tribute section is going to feature J Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone), Robert Wise (The Sound of Music) and the Bengali director Ajoy Kar (Jighansa). The Retrospective section would have eight films by the Taiwanese director, Tsai Ming Liang. New Horizon would feature films by the Iranian Niki Karimi, who is also one of the jury members of the competitive section on women directors. The Special Tribute section would feature seven of the best of Suchitra Sen. From What Is Before by the Philippine director, Luv Diaz would have a special screening.
Another first is going to be the introduction of Nazrul Tirtha in the New Town area as a venue. The newly-inaugurated grand cultural complex, a brainchild of the state’s chief minister, would also be the place where the closing ceremony is going to take place.
Besides feature films, a large number of short films would also be screened. Short films, though can often be of a high quality, are a commercially neglected lot; so a festival like this is one of the few places where you can hope to see some wonderful shorts. A hundred and eighteen short films would be screened. Feature films number around 137, from 60 countries; this number includes 31 Indian films, of which 13 are Bengali, including some mint-fresh ones. The screenings are going to span 12 venues in the city – Nandan I, Nandan II, Nandan III, Sisir Mancha, Rabindra Sadan, EZCC, Navina, Mitra, INOX City Centre, Purnashree, Uttam Mancha and Nazrul Tirtha.
The opening film this time would be the Italian film, Italo Barocco. This heart-warming tale about a life-altering friendship between a stray dog and a ten-year-old boy in the Sicilian town of Scicli is creating a lot of buzz in the festival circuit, and is sure to receive a similar welcome at KIFF too.
A scene from Italo Barocco
Both the opening ceremony (at Netaji Indoor Stadium) and the closing ceremony are going to be star-studded affairs, with the attendance by the likes of Amitabh, Jaya, Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, state’s ambassador Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan and Tanuja at the former, and by Farah Khan and Rani Mukherji at the latter. Some more Hindi film stars might also attend. Of course, being held in Kolkata, stars from the Bengali film industry would be present in their full glory.
A critical test for the success or otherwise of an international film festival is the attendance of eminent film delegates, and this time, 40 foreign delegates are expected to be a part of the festival, besides 30 national guests.
L to R: Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan, Farah Khan
Glorious 20 years, and looking forward
KIFF has come a long way. Its journey of 20 years has had its fair share of ups and downs. It had begun with a bang in 1994, bringing the best of world cinema to an audience ever ready for it. It was going strong till towards the end of the 2000s, when it gradually became a paler version of its former glorious self, with the quality of films and consequently, the attendance, falling. A lot of the loss of glory was also blamed on factors like proliferation of film channels on television, the inability of people to spare time for films in their hectic lives, and the modern culture of downloading and streaming films over the internet. However, the last few years has seen a huge revival. The standard of films has improved by leaps and bounds, and so has the attendance, proving that quality is the key, especially for a film-loving but at the same time, a critical audience, that Kolkata boasts of.
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv
Paul Cox: Madhyamam English
Niki Karimi: PressTV
Na Renhua: Chinese Films
Nino Kirtadze: Vimeo
Amol Palekar: YepMovie.com
Nandan: Bookfairkolkata Blog
Italo Barocco: Film Festival R2R
Amitabh Bachchan: biography.com
Shah Rukh Khan: IBN Live
Deepika Padukone: Deccan Chronicle
Irrfan Khan: desimartini.com
Farah Khan: Unitezz