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Tuesday, December 14

IFFK: Opening to World Cinema

1055km down South from Goa where India's shambolic International Film Festival just reached its fag end, curtains have gone up in Kerala's capital city for a kindred fete which improves its outlook, reach and fame through every passing year. 

IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala) took wings in the mid 90s, with the inaugural edition in Calicut, providing opportunity for the serious-minded and educated movie geeks of the state to get a wide-angle view of the art-form on a global scape, and was later moved permanently to Trivandrum. Over the past decade it has grown from a local festival to something very much prominent on Kerala's yearbook, winning accolades for the modest but professional & spirited way it is organized. In fact what makes IFFK stand out from contemporary jokes of film festivals in our country, is the passion of people involved in the venture.

India's prominent film-critic Ms. Anupama Chopra has a strong point on what dodges the IFFI in Goa. The article, Doomed by babudom, provides an unintentional insight as to why the Trivandrum festival has been able to score more tick marks as opposed to the much older, bigger and costlier Goan edition. Excerpts:

our International Film Festival of India (Iffi), taking place in Goa from 22 November to 2 December, continues to be an amateurish, badly organised comedy of errors with the usual complaints, controversies and largely mediocre selection of films. Which might be forgivable if the festival was new, but this is the 41st edition. A cursory internet search throws up news articles that reveal a painful consistency of bungling over the decades: fights over who will be the chief guest; criticism of films included and excluded; bureaucratic myopia; charges of corruption; and the absolute lack of character and vision.

K, let's leave the mess and get back to the point. The IFFK, organized at a shoe-string budget, has been recognized and accredited by FIAPE (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films), 'FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) and the Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema)and also has increasingly been successful in generating immense interest among local, national and international film-makers, critics, media and the general public and has acquired the premiere spot among the already glittering cultural calender of Trivandrum.

Signature clip from Technopark based Toonz Animation.

It's taken 15 years, short or long, for IFFK to cut a niche for itself. Starting from a more than impressive website, planned and put together by genera who love and care for films, careful selection of movies grouped into interesting, appropriate categories, citizenry who understand and appreciate quality reels, vibrant and educative open-sessions and interactions, IFFK's latest edition has not let anyone down so far.

Touch wood. Let it remain so...

Or perhaps the only conspicuous omission would be the red carpet? On second thoughts it may just be a good idea to have that carpet folded and stowed in the attic; the last thing we need is the Bollywood descending on it to take the sheen and class away from the festival.

For IFFK, the most important lesson is to learn how Goa has faltered over the years. While IFFI has descended into a tug of war between Goa state authorities and their New Delhi bosses, and of late threatening to turn into a Bollywood Circus, Kerala's premiere Festival is not without its fair share of ailments. One glaring aspect is that we are yet to have a permanent venue for the glorious event. And that's a shame.

Apart from the decade long promises that work on the venue will start tomorrow, next  week and so on, the films are still screened in the dozen-odd theaters in Trivandrum City. Robust plans of Tagore theater renovation was spoiled when heritage and preservation acumen got better of the construction plans. Of late there has been a promise to construct a multiplex on the Jawahar Balabhavan grounds, close to the sprawling Kanakakkunnu Palace in Vellayambalam, but we'll keep our fingers crosses on that.

IFFI Permanent venue in Goa

The IFFI legend also inexplicably exhorts the importance of whom you entrust with running the show. IFFK has been taking rapid strides just because it has people who're actively associated with movies and it's technicalities. Still at the other end of the spectrum when compared to glitz and glamour of Cannes, Toronto, Milan or Berlin or even to Ann Arbor or Pusan, IFFK commands its due share of respect among nouveaux all-over-the-map city-centric film festivals.

Just for record, Cannes' Festival Budget caps at a cool 20 million Euros (120 crore INR) , the disgraceful IFFI Goa smokes up 7.5 crores at its altar whereas Kerala State Chalachitra Academy organises IFFK at less than half that amount. No red carpet, paparazzis, reporters & journalists who travel first class on jets, expensive hotel suites, dress codes, valet parking, themed dining or even a multiplex to screen the films, but IFFK has got it right!

Film makers and critics concur. From Anupama Chopra's Twitter:

Cannes winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul on jury at IFFK. 1200+ delegates filling theaters. IFFK gets it right in 15 years. What ails IFFI?

German film-maker Werner Herzog (Newslink)
the festival had an incredible international scope and yet retained a strong cultural identity of Kerala.

So if you're in or around Trivandrum , anywhere close to a movie-fan and you've hard time filling the hours  then you know exactly where to be heading now.

IFFK 2010: Schedule
IFFK Website
15th IFFK Blog
IFFK 2010 in Yentha 
IFFKThe Hindu

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