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Two Must-Attend Film Festivals,in India

by Lekha Shankar 
With almost every city in India boasting of a film festival today, it’s difficult to know which ones to choose. But two film festivals seems a cut above the rest.
The International Film Festival of India (IIFI),  is the oldest and biggest film festival in the country ,which is  held in late-November, in the scenic beach-town of Goa. It  has the glitter, glamour, and high-quality cinema that one associates with a top-range festival .
The Kerala International  Film Festival  (KIFF) is held in the noisy, busy city of Trivandrum, in the southern-tip of India . It does not boast of even a cinema multiplex, but  draws the largest film-audiences in the country .The open-air Opening and Closing events  attract spectacular crowds.
The 2011 editions of  the  two festivals had much to be proud off, including a  wide selection of  top-range films, and  an arresting-range of  top-notch film personalities. 
Let’s start with IIFI.
Among the top international directors who attended this year’s festival, were  French maestro Bertrand Tavernier, who was given the Lifetime Achievement Award , well-known Australian director Phil Noyce, who conducted a Master Class,  UK director Michael Winterbottom and Indian actress Frieda Pinto , who presented the film ‘Trishna’, based on Thomas Hardy’s novel ‘Tess of the Durbervilles’, French director Luc Besson and actress Michelle Yeoh who presented the Closing Film ‘The Lady’ ,an arresting biopic about Burmese Democracy-leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi. 

Tavernier was full of humour, at receiving an award from a country that had not  released any of his films. But he said that he himself had been influenced by many Indian film-makers,including Satyajit Ray. Speaking of the importance of the cinema medium, the French Director informed that three  legislative laws had been changed in his country, thanks to his films.


Among the important sections, at the Festival, were those on Poland, Russian, as also a special section on ‘Football’ films, and  a new 3D section. 

There were  Master Classes by top  film-artistes like  Hugh Welchman, Laurence Kardish, Resul Pookutty, Max Howard.

The Artistic Director of the festival, Shankar Mohan ,who has worked with the festival for nearly two decades, and who took independent charge of the Govt-sponsored festival only this year, said he was ‘satisfied’ with IIFI 2011.  

The Kerala Festival, which is noted for its Retros, had  some arresting Retros, this year – Bresson, Oshima, Theo Angelopoulos ,Adolfas Mekas, Djbril Mabety  .    
There were Homages to two important film-folk who died last year- Elizabeth Taylor and Raoul  Ruiz  . Last but not the least, was a unique Kaidan Horror Classics section, which created a stir among the  audience.  


 Among the Jury, this year, were Australian-Hollywood director Bruce Beresford and Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu. Both directors have totally different cinematic styles and visions. But they both confessed that they shared one problem- the problem of getting funds, for their  films! 

Beresford, best known for  his Oscar winner ‘Driving Miss Daisy is an Australian director who has made films in different parts of the world, including  China ( 'Mao’s Last Dancer') ,and has also directed many operas.


 Kaplananoglu, best known for his Trilogy ‘Egg, Milk, Honey’  ,said he made films for himself and was grateful to film festivals for internationalising him. 


An important seminar at the festival, discussed the ‘ Marketing of Malayalam Cinema’ and through that, the ‘ Marketing of Asian Cinema.’


 Festival Director Bina Paul said that this was a new addition to the festival.



 Aruna Vasudev, founder of  the dynamic organization NETPAC ( Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) , stated that there was “ A sea-change in the perception of Asian cinema” .
That was the reason for the explosion of  Asian Film Festivals around the world, she added. But  she admitted that distribution of these films, was still a major problem.
She urged people to read the Netpac web-site, which offered the best source-material for films from all around Asia ( ) . 
 It was interesting  to hear  an actor from Kerala, Ravinder, speak of his intense efforts to spread the cinema of  his state, to international territories, which included top  festival -markets like Cannes and Berlin , as well as  international Varsities, like New York  Varsity.  
 " It would be nice for people to discover  Kerala, through its cinema" he stated, adding " why don’t we have a barter system? They can show our films, and we can show theirs-! "  
Why not, indeed?


Lekha Shankar


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I'm an Indian film-writer, based in Bangkok, and write for publications in India & Thailand. I also coordinate and curate film programs in the two countries, at cultural centres/clubs, film festivals.



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