It’s been years since I attended the International Film Festival of India and to finally get to the 44th IFFI, as a delegate with accreditation was simply too good to be true! And, being in Goa, it was even more exciting! But, things are never the same; nothing goes as planned or imagined.
The city of Panaji is bathed in festival fervor; colourful lights, festoons, floral decorations and other local decorations with folk art simply keeps you in awe.
Upon reaching Goa, the first jolt one gets is that simply receiving your accreditation is not enough; you need tickets for each and every show that you want to watch. Tickets?? Then why does one need a pass around one’s neck? “Oh! They are trying to imitate what other festivals across the world do … you know Cannes, Berlinale,” stated one senior film critic, a regular at the festival.
The media centre is one of the best with state-of-the-art technology, new PCs and dedicated BSNL broadband with a never-ending stock of tea and coffee. Once you get there for tickets, the long queue quells your hopes. You hope against hope that you will get to see the film you wish to watch and shout with joy when you get a ticket and become the envy of others who don’t get one. While delegates get 3 per day per quota, the media gets 5 per day per quota. There are over 15,000 delegates and over 300 media representatives. I’m sure you can imagine the fight for tickets.
You walk into a screen, victorious, with your head held high and without a backward glance at the serpentine queues waiting eagerly to get in before the film begins. A strange thing that I have observed is that non-ticket holders are not let inside the screen until the film’s credits begin. It also doesn’t help when you lose the initial sequence or the beginning. I have had that misfortune for some of the films but that can’t be helped and the volunteers are tongue-tied, with no access to an authority of any kind to help out the delegates and non-ticket holders.
With 326 films from over 70 countries, it is indeed a game of luck when it comes to selecting a film. Some of the people follow this; one inquires at the ticketing counter which films have the maximum bookings. Or, ask one of the critics. If none work, then follow your instinct and get in. At times there is so much of brouhaha about a particular film that it is housefull but the first 10 minutes are a let down. This happened with a film from Afghanistan with a very enticing name; ‘A Man’s Desire for Fifth Wife’. This had aroused interest in many but in less than 10 minutes, the auditorium was half empty.
Similarly, one also comes across delegates/film buffs who come in with the intention of watching ‘hot scenes’ of uncensored films. Not for the story, direction or acting. One such instance was post the screening of LED (Ice) from Serbia when a delegate asked the producer and director Jelena Bajic Jocic to include longer sex scenes which he enjoyed the most. “The scenes were really good and I enjoyed them but they were very short…”. Similarly, the German film Illusion by Roland Reber was packed to the brim due to its erotic scenes. Sometimes, it makes me wonder what has become of cinema. Does it sell only for its erotic scenes or are there people who watch films for their content of good story telling, acting and cinema as a whole?
IFFI has a lot of other events, which sometimes coincide with a film one wants to watch. Media interactions, open forums discussing the future of cinema, technical discussions like P K Nair on the Cinematography Act etc. These keep the media busy as well!