By Suyash Kamat
“This feels just right.” I told my friends as we rested between screenings on a hectic day full of great films at IFFI 2016. It’s been 6 days, and I’ve kind of lost track of what reality feels like outside the venue. Continuing my reverie, “I feel less burdened. Somehow not keeping in touch with reality is really quite peaceful in some ways”. Given this is my long-time crew, we immediately broke into a debate about the virtue of ignorance that morphed into an argument about what cinema should stand for, then descended to “I’d rather drink my pee than Kingfisher”. This is what IFFI means to me, an experience of every shade of life within just 10 days.
I began my cinema journey when I joined a film school in Pune. That was also my first year at IFFI. Until then, this festival was never about cinema to me. It was about lights, food, glamour, and being part of dance troupes performing on the boardwalk outside the venue. But now I became a delegate, and immediately became mesmerised. That year, I sat glued through 42 films. They changed my life. I just couldn’t be the same person any more.
Though I now attend several film festivals every year, IFFI feels more like home. There are people whom you meet only here, and then never keep in touch for the rest of the year. Others you meet at the festival, then grow closer to as time passes by. But fundamentally, everyone loves cinema. One year, I remember meeting a bunch of students who would walk as much as 7-10 kms to go back home after the last film. No transport was available, but “it doesn’t matter because we love films”
Over the years, I’ve grown into the festival discipline of researching and carefully picking films instead of leaving it to chance. But the curiosity remains the same. Days pass by just picking, watching, thinking, talking and finally, suddenly, feeling a gut in the stomach when the bonanza is over. It takes weeks to get rid of my festival hangover, to restore normalcy to my life..
As we are nearing the end of IFFI 2016, the fact that we must step back into a world of 9 pm news and violence feels rather saddening. But festivals like this definitely leave me with a sense of hope. Filmmakers make us see many worlds, but ultimately remind us about what it means to be human. A film about the Egyptian revolution made me cry, it rang too close to home. A dysfunctional family story from Canada helped me see my mother in a new light.
If there is one thing attending this festival has taught me, I’d have to say empathy. It has helped me see people around me differently. Every human has lived an individual story. Every film is the story of one such person. They all need to be watched. They all deserve to be loved. Thank you IFFI.