BY Sachin Chatte
We are at the half-way mark of the 51st International Film Festival of India, and it has gone completely on expected lines so far, on all counts. Not many delegates were expected to turn up given the pandemic that is still raging and weighing heavily on people’s minds. The number of outstation delegates has been minuscule compared to what we have seen before – brave and enthusiastic are the ones who have shown up, most of who seem to be from the southern parts of the country, with the odd one from Mumbai and Pune.
Theatre capacities at IFFI have been reduced to 50% (or 200 seats, whichever is lower) and there is only the occasional film (La Veronica, the Spanish film in the competition section; the French feel-good film The Big Hit) that saw every available seat in the house being taken. In the past, most delegates, who failed to find a seat in the multiplex, would flock to Kala Academy; because of its immense capacity of around 950 seats, there was every chance of getting in. But following the protocols and guidelines, even that auditorium – which has the most serene surroundings (not to mention a canteen that serves everything from Poha to fish thali and biryani) – is restricted to 200 seats.
For film lovers, IFFI is the best time of the year in this state; it doesn’t get any better. Along with films, there are also friends who descend on Goa, often placing delegates in a quandary: should you catch a film or should you meet your friends for a chai, or over dinner to discuss films and life and more? It is a tightrope walk. Sleep deprivation and the occasional zombie-like state was also one of the side effects of IFFI, not forgetting the lack of time to get rid of any facial hair growth.
But there are no such challenges this time; there aren’t many visitors and there are not many exciting films either. Also, the show timings at IFFI this year are a bit more relaxed: from five to six films per screen in a normal year, it has come down to three this year, thanks to the pandemic, with hardly any films in the night slot.
Till the 50th IFFI, in 2019, the last film was usually screened around 10 p.m., with the proceedings starting again as early as 8.30 a.m. the next day, forcing some dedicated souls to sacrifice the all-important chai in the morning. For a couple of years, they also had midnight screenings at Kala Academy. I remember the second outing of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (2015) at midnight, having seen it first barely 12 hours earlier. Then there was Gasper Noe’s Love the same year, which I wish I hadn’t seen at all – it was basically 3D porn. That part was of academic interest, I suppose, but as a film, it wasn’t much to write about.
Internationally, in 2020, there were hardly any big releases – many of the films went directly to OTT and since the nature of festivals around the world was not what it used to be, there were relatively few new discoveries. In such a scenario, there is little that the organizers could do to bring some exciting films. As a result, the bouquet of films is a little smaller this time.
The second half promises some of the better films from the overall package. There is The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020)that won a couple of awards at the Venice festival. It stars Monica Belluci and is directed by Kaouther Ben Hania, who made Beauty and the Dogs (2017) – that is a good enough reason to look forward to this film. Spring Blossom (2020) is made by the 21-year Suzanne Lindon (daughter of the French actor, Vincent Lindon), while New Order (2020), the Silver Lion winner from Venice, has earned comparisons with Parasite (2019).
Even though there are fewer shows and few films, the scheduling has a conflict with Night of the Kings (2020) by the Ivorian director Phillipe Lacote and Juan Pablo Félix’ debut drama Karnawal (2020). In the Indian Panorama, I am eagerly awaiting Mangesh Joshi’s Karkhanisanchi Waari, given that his previous film Lathe Joshi (2018) was an absolute gem.
As Shah Rukh Khan famously said, “Picture abhi baaki hain mere dost”.