IFFI 51 Award for Best Debut Director awarded to Brazilian Director Cássio Pereira dos Santos for his 2020 Portuguese film Valentina, an eponymous film which tells the story of a 17-year-old transgender Brazilian girl, whose sole aim is to lead a normal life with her mother

By Tara Narayan

The 51st IFFI came to close with the usual round of awards, congratulations, speeches and musical entertainment in Panaji, Goa.

IT was curtains for the 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India on January 24, 2021. The nine-day meticulously organized film festival from January 16 to 24 took place against the backdrop of Covid-19 fears and concluded amidst the usual round of speeches, award announcements, congratulations and celebrations at an evening of musical entertainment at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium in Panaji, Goa. Reportedly the invitees and celebrities list did not go beyond a 200-strong audience for the closing ceremony. This year’s IFFI was a low-key festival vis-a-vis either Mumbai cinema or foreign film stars turning up to walk down the red carpet.
Amongst this year’s guests of honor for felicitation was the “Dum maro dum” girl Zeenat Aman who won much acclaim in the late producer-actor Dev Anand’s film on drugs titled “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna.” It’s a pity that although Zeenat Aman has featured in other films ( Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Don, Qurbani, Insaf Ka Tarrazu) she is still best remembered for the picturization of the “Dum maro dum” song in the film Hare Rama, Hare Krishna! The graceful star whose life has been marred with tragedy must be touching 70 now.
Other film star guests of honor for felicitation were Bhojpuri filmstar and MP Ravi Kishan. Biswajit Chatterjee, in his mid-80s now, is remembered as the chocolate boy hero of many a yesteryear Hindi and Bengali film and comes across as full of vim and vigor even today. The Bengali actor received the IFFI Personality of the Year Award, many cinegoers may remember the actor in films like “Bees Saal Baad”, “Kohra,” “April Fool” and many more Bengali films. While accepting the award the actor reminisced about his special relationship with Bangladesh warmly.

Veteran actor Biswajit Chatterjee receiving the Indian Personality of the Year Award at the hands of Governor of Goa Bhagat Singh Koshiyari

Amongst the political dignitaries were Union Minister for State for Environment and Forests Babul Supriyo who congratulated the ESG and DFF teams for a perfectly organized 51st IFFI and for overcoming all “buts and ifs,” he was all praise for Chief Minister Pramod Sawant for taking a courageous stand on the evergreen principle of the entertainment industry which is “the show must go on.” He said it must be remembered that India makes the largest number of films in the world and reiterated that Goa is the right place for celebrating cinema. Secretary for Information & Broadcasting Ministry (government of India) Amit Khare was also present. According to him 60 countries participated in the 51st IFFI and 200 films were screened, it is no mean achievement and something the rest of the world is taking appreciating.
Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant speaking in difficult to understand Hindi endorsed his commitment to making the 52nd IFFI coming up in November later this year into an “even better” celebration. He said this Covid-19 times IFFI has called for much creativity in Goa which is a state with lots of natural beauty to offer. While welcoming everyone for IFFI he also welcomes filmmakers to come and shoot their films in the state. Apart from making Goa a place for IFFI excellence, he added, it is very much part of the State government’s efforts to promote eco-tourism and in this respect the Fourth International Bird Festival will soon be taking place in Goa. A good-humored Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari added his more fulsome congratulations for organizing IFFI in troubled times, saying, “Cinema touches the heart, not the mind; it comes not from the mind but from the heart.” A bit of hyperbole which left many wondering what he actually meant, perhaps he meant cinema comes from the mind but touches the heart!

award winners

Coming to the 51st IFFI’s winners: The Peacock Award went to the Danish World War II film “Into the Darkness” (it recounts a Danish electronics factory owner’s dilemmas when he is ordered to produce for occupying Nazi forces); Silver Peacock for Best Director goes to director Chen Nien Ko of Taiwan for her 2020 Mandarin drama “The Silent Forest” (a film focusing on the sexual abuse of specially challenged school children); Silver Peacock for Best Actor–Male goes to 17-year-old Tzu-Chuan Liu for his role in “The Silent Forest;” Silver Peacock for Best Actor-Female is for Polish actor Zofia Stafiej for her role in Piotr Domalewski’s “I Never Cry.”
The film “Bridge” won a special mention Jury Award while the Jury Award goes to Bulgarian director Kamin Kalev for his film, a 2020 production titled “February.” This film lyrically profiles the life of a sheep farmer from the time he was an 8-year-old boy roaming the forests of Bulgaria, at 18 years when he marries and puts in military service, then chooses to return to live on his sheep farm – right into his 80s as a loner united with nothing else but the wondrous joys of Mother Earth.

Veteran Actor and the Chief Guest for the Closing Ceremony, Zeenat Aman said, “IFFI 51 provides resilience amidst the pandemic, and hope for the post-COVID world

Needless to say most of the IFFI awards were accepted by the winners virtually since this was a hybrid festival, with maybe 60 percent physical screenings and 40 percent of it conducted virtually online or OTT (Over the top) platforms. The 51st IFFI concluded with the screening of the Kiyoshi Kurosawa-directed Japanese film “Wife of A Spy” at the Kala Academy’s Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium as also the INOX auditoriums. The film is a 2020 release, a wartime thriller set in 1940, about how the marriage of a Japanese actress and wealthy businessman goes for a toss in an espionage storyline to do with love, romance, trust, fear and just the fine ironies life can come up with at the best and worst of times.
Every IFFI, I say this: We can do with a national an international film festival to celebrate films in Goa. Where else may one find a spirit as cosmopolitan as in Goa?

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