IT WAS A WASHED OUT HYBRID 52ND IFFI… Fewer delegates but the fizz is still there!

IT STARTED TO RAIN ON IFFI OPENING EVENING BUT THE SHOW WENT ON: It didn’t put off IFFI delegates at the Inox courtyard as they queued up to see opening film “The King of All The World” scheduled for screening at all the INOX auditoriums on November 20, 2021. The film is a Mexico-Spain co-production directed and written by the legendary Carlos Suara.

By Tara Narayan

COPIOUS rain in November is not a usual phenomenon. But this year stormy bursts of unseasonal rain just about washed out the second in the year and 52nd hybrid International Film Festival of India in capital town Panaji in holiday state Goa from November 20 to 28, 2021. It is still post-covid pandemic times but a reported 2,000 delegates registered for the film festival from veteran IFFI addicts to students of cinema to tourists doing Goa.
There is never going to be a finer way to see the best films of the world — than on the big screen. Like the way our grandparents and parents watched films if they were lucky enough to do so once in a blue moon…but the velvety thrills and cold chills of watching films like we used to do with so much profound appreciation, those days are gone. And today’s young folk will never know what it is to see a film with a hundred and one per cent concentration, no snacks in between, only a ten minute interval and get back to your sets. Not like that, those days are going, gone.
Only when the International Film Festival of India comes to town in capital city Panaji and I am old-timer still crazy about films to live for, I try to re-capture some of the old magic of watching films and that too for old times sake! That too if some of my friends from Mumbai-which-was-Bombay are here – this year the friends I loved did not come for they have gone with wind during covid pandemic times and its wretched lockdowns playing havoc in many homes – perhaps this year’s IFFI should have been scrapped, where is the rationale of having two IFFIs during the same year to make up for the one not held last year?
Of course, things get upgraded and must stay maintained throughout the year but for this let us have IFFI all the year round in smaller ways if there is so much money to be made on OTT platform deals. I will say it. Small town Goa has the seaside ambience but its infrastructure has not kept pace with the incoming migration in the last 60 years since its Liberation for the people – so how do we ensure that IFFI-goers have the same freedom which a good infrastructure grants its own people?
Post-viewing a film at the INOX four auditoriums does any delegate from our of Goa feel like taking a stroll through Panaji, sit on a bench in one of its pocket gardens? The streets of Panaji are not even swept and litter removed by 8am in the morning and the market place around the old GMC vicinity, where delegates go looking for a meal break, are virtually in a stinking mode! Never mind that by third day of IFFI there was fairy lighting up on the trees and shrubs lining the main thoroughfare of the Campal promenade…and posters put up everywhere welcoming everyone to the IFFI mela of film-viewing.
THIS is the worst ever IFFI I’ve experienced and I’m not a VIP okay. I’m down-to-earth aam aadmi viewer with media credentials who prefers to see the films and attend a few press conferences and sometimes attend the parties invited to or not invited to. Opening day I was in a quandary looking for my approved media card at every base at the Old GMC complex and INOX vicinity. Friends ask me what’s wrong, I’ve been at IFFI for the last 17 years no? It seems I had not got my vaccination certificate so no media card for me! The concerned computer filling in date refused to pass me. I argue that it is not legally mandatory for me to have a vaccination certificate. Check me now! I’m fine. I am walking, talking, breathing, arguing – all indices are perfect. Absolutely no fever. Check me, if I test positive rightly or wrongly I’ll walk to the hospital right now!
AND so I missed the inaugural function but that was no big deal. I’m no celebrity or film star chaser seeking selfie thrills! In any case the media in recent years have been kept at quite a bit of annoying distance behind some strong iron fencing, so that none may come say even hello to any celebrity or political VIP they may be on talking terms with personally! Without zoom lenses to one camera it’s a waste time taking photographs, especially the photographs you want to capture. The rest are stock photographs give to all media, use or not, up to you, these are freebie pictures courtesy the organizers.
This year local photographers were kept out of the auditorium for exclusive rights of coverage were given away to a Mumbai entertainment party. Quite rightly, the Goan media was bugged and went on in instant strike and then it started to rain. It completed the mood of the moment although for the record the inaugural function was a roaring success inside the in-door stadium where everything went off smoothly, with the audience of invitees and invited delegates happy with the speeches, the awards, the introduction of the jury, the stars present, entertainment lined up courtesy dancing heroes Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan & Co (see box elsewhere here).

I WAS overjoyed to have made it for the inaugural film of the 52nd IFFI though, renowned Spanish film director Carlos Saura’s third film in a trilogy of grand films, this one titled “The King of All the World.” The other two films in the trilogy are Carmen and Tango, the newest film reportedly winds up his trilogy. Is it a political film? Everyone denies it, on the surface of it it’s all about bringing some brilliant dancers to tell a story and if you’re asking me it is both an excruciatingly social as well as political story – a story steeped in a history of violence shared by the countries of Spain and Mexico.
The metaphor of the film is really the gun – what happens to a people when a gun culture of violence and fear takes over their lives? So, who is the king of the world, the gun of course! Some evergreen metaphors of life are woven into this subtly layered film, “The King of the World” – with its cast of some fine dancers, the best the world surely. And now I want to see all of Carlos Saura’s films! Make time for this 2021 musical drama of a film directed and written by Carlos Suara, it’s a Mexico-Spain co-production. I dare say it’s the best IFFI inaugural film I’ve seen to date.
This film and a few more and this year’s IFFI was over for me. Every year I say this is my last IFFI but then the idea of running away to see a film tempts and like I said before, want to see a film? See it only on the big screen. I wonder for how long films for the big screen will be made with all newer technology facilitating ease and convenience and we take to smaller screens to live life on a day-to-day routine basis.
With life being lived virtually online it’s no longer news that the rich who live in palatial homes will invest in their own well-equipped entertainment rooms for family and friends. Private entertainment. In time to come just ask the question: Who will attend film festivals like IFFI?

OLD-TIMERS like me who will only see film on big screen or not at all? Students of cinema seeking opportunity and introduction to new film making genres and lucrative careers? Those who seek finance for making a film of their dreams? Tourists in Goa who want to while away a day after screening the schedule of IFFI films on offer in a decent auditorium?
Hey, seeing a film at IFFI is more economical, especially if you are a local resident of Panaji or Goa! IFFI will always have takers as long as the film viewing is economical; the organizers of course may make their killings elsewhere, say on release of premieres and other well-thought out schemes in the realm of entertainment which need not be restricted to films alone.

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