By Kaustubh Naik
I have been attending IFFI since 2008. It has been a transformational experience. When I transitioned from computer science to humanities, the decision was greatly influenced by my exposure to the larger world via the films at this festival.
It is rather interesting how I lose track of time at IFFI. But it isn’t escapism. Instead, it’s a step towards immersing myself into worlds that I wouldn’t have otherwise confronted. This festival’s commendable curation every year consistently allows the possibility of encountering multiple realities of the times that we are living in.
Having grown up watching popular Hindi films, where grandeur was the norm, the films that I’ve seen over the years at IFFI have been a great departure. I found myself connecting to them immediately. The simplicity of their narratives and the evocative images truly bring out the possibilities of cinema as a medium for making an impact.
‘The Fifth Season’ (2012) is one IFFI selection that has stayed with me over the years. Directed by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth, this film progressed with absurd narrative style, and evocative images that left me numb. Set in a small Belgian village, the cryptic yet layered imagery was a cinematic commentary on climate change. Another film I fondly recall is ‘Salawati’ (2008). The Singaporean film directed by Marc X Grigoroff had a very simple story revolving around a small girl that was a brilliant take on death and forgiveness.
Via cinema, I’ve developed a keen interest in various countries and regions – China, Iran, Eastern Europe – for their pathbreaking cinema. IFFI introduced me to Jia Zhangke’s work. I was blown away by his dystopian imagery reflecting the underbelly of China’s unprecedented growth, industrial prowess and technological superiority. The opening scene of his ‘A Touch of a sin’ (2013) was one of the best I’ve seen.
Similarly, cinema from Iran has consistently focused on the lives of ordinary people and their daily confrontations. At IFFI 2015, Jafar Panahi took us all for a ride in ‘Taxi’ (2015). His masterpiece is guerilla film-making. It uses the camera as a tool of political defiance, depicting Iranian society in a mundane yet powerful manner that immerses the audience into a moving experience.
I have also been smitten by cinema from Eastern Europe. ‘Ida’ (2013), ‘W Ukryciu’ (2013), and ‘Viva Belarus’ (2013) have introduced me to provincial histories of Europe that I would not have attended to otherwise. The films showcased at IFFI’s Indian Panorama have similarly been an eye opener towards regional narratives of India.
IFFI films have been a major trigger for me to read up and understand the Palestinian conflict, the World Wars and their aftermath, major political uprisings across the world, LGBTQ issues, the refugee crisis much more.
This year, the political climate around the world is being marked by uncertainties and the films that were showcased at IFFI aptly reflected these concerns. This festival has been a platter of learning for me, not only about cultures and narratives from around the world but also the intricate complexities and conflicts that plague our times.