Known for its casinos boats anchored in the Mandovi river and Portuguese architectural heritage such as Fontainhas, Goa’s capital Panjim donned an envious avatar with a generous sprinkling of art installations during the International Film Festival of India (IFF) from November 20 to 28.
Organised by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Goa government’s Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), IFFI is not only one of the first film festivals of Asia but also the most significant. This year marked the 50th edition of the festival that started in 1952 with the patronage of former Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru. Since 2004, Goa became the permanent venue of the festival, a culmination of the efforts of the former Chief Minister of Goa, late Manohar Parrikar.
The golden jubilee celebrations made IFFI 2019 a memorable event. “I was just amazed at the exciting film sections and master classes that were introduced this year,” exclaims Maria Almeida, an art student from Vasco. “I didn’t miss a single day of the festival, even though I had to miss some classes and pamper my mother for extra pocket money! It’s unbelievable how IFFI has matured in the last few years. This year, being the 50th, they are honouring women filmmakers and showcasing regional cinema.” Maria’s excitement resonates with thousands of students of media, art and filmmaking who made a bee-line to the festival and “were always the first to arrive and the last to leave the venues.”
“My best moment was to be able to see Rajinikanth Sir live!” says a jittery Seema Narvalkar interning with a local newspaper in Goa. “I was fortunate to be able to attend the inaugural ceremony and watch him being honoured with the ‘Icon of Golden Jubilee of IFFI’, a first for IFFI.” The ceremony, hosted by Karan Johar, was also attended by Amitabh Bachchan, Priyadarshan and other stalwarts of the film industry and I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar and Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
“I shot my first film Saat Hindustani in Goa and it’s always a nostalgic feeling to be back in Goa,” reminisced Mr Bachchan at the opening ceremony. His films Badla, Deewar, Paa, Piku, Sholay and Black were screened as part of the Retrospective of DSPA section. Isabelle Huppert, one of French cinema’s most iconic actors, was felicitated with the Lifetime Achievement Award at IFFI 2019.
Immigration in focus
The opening film of the ceremony Despite The Fog, an Italian film directed by Serbian Goran Paskaljevic, a story of a refugee child whose parents drowned while travelling by rubber boat on the Italian coast in search of a better life and portrays the xenophobic fog that engulfs the world today set the tone of the festival. This year, the festival had a special focus on films from Russia such as The Hero, Acid, Abigail, Beanpole and more. “I am very lucky to be here. This being my first time, I am truly grateful to IFFI for showcasing the film here,” said Beanpole actress Viktoria Miroshnichenko.
The two sections — Golden Peacock Retrospective and The Golden Lining — featured award-winning films from IFFI in the past (Moner Manush, Tulpan, etc.) and Indian Films completing 50 years in 2019 (Aradhana, Adimakal, Satyakaam, etc.), respectively. Special segment Soul Of Asia showcased some of the new and dynamic films that have made their mark across Asian countries and filmmakers and included Chinese film Feelings to Tell by Wen Li, Sri Lankan film The Other Half directed by Lalith Rathnayake, Wet Season directed by Anthony Chen and co-produced by Singapore and Taiwan, and more.
“I was especially happy to see a special section on regional cinema, The Goan Story, this year,” says Albertina D’souza from Dona Paula studying MBA in the UK. The section honoured regional cinema of Goa as a package of films under the Konkani Language and screened Goan films such as Amori, Bade Abbu, Digant, Juzu, etc.
Women-centric films made waves
The festival screened several women-centric. Over 50 films from world cinema made by 50 women filmmakers were also showcased.
Hellaro showcased the journey of women in a remote hamlet of Kutch from suppression to expression through Garba. Nooreh is the story of an eight-year old girl living in a border village in Kashmir who wishes to see peace in Kashmir. At Five In the Afternoon, by Iranian film-maker Samira Makhmalbaf, is the story of an Afghan girl who dreams of being the country’s President.
37 Seconds by Japanese film director Hikari (Mitsuyo Miyazaki) was a brilliant film that narrates the life of a young Japanese woman and her struggles in balancing her dreams and duties towards family. Ensuring a focus on regional films, IFFI also showcased Anandi Gopal a Marathi film on the first female doctor of India who studied at the Woman’s
Medical College, Pennsylvania in the late 19th century.
In a series of firsts — IFFI 2019 witnessed 90 India Premieres, six World Premieres and 11 Asia Premieres of Films; a long-forgotten, but extraordinary way of viewing films. Three silent films were screened this year at IFFI accompanied by a live music set by the Master Pianist, Johnny Best — Battleship Potemkin (1925), Blackmail (1929) and Pandora’s Box (1929).
The In-Conversation sessions at Kala Academy, Panjim were a big hit with the youth. Anil Kapoor entertained the audience with his witty remarks and gave advice to aspiring actors. “The key to my longevity is I look for characters in my films. I am still a student of cinema.” Taapsee Pannu spoke candidly about being a woman in the industry, pay parity, etc… “Indifference is the biggest form of revenge… that’s how I deal with trolls.”
Producer of Antigone, Isabelle Couture spoke at length about her films’ tackling of police brutality, collective movement and immigration. “Immigration is one of the big themes of our era. But each country will be experiencing it differently,” she explained.
The venues for the screenings were as exquisite as the occasion itself — the old GMC building in Panjim, the beautiful Maquinez Palace and open-air screenings at Miramar Beach and Jogger’s Park in Altinho area of the city.