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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



IFFI 50: The numbers game

IFFI 50: The numbers game

In 2019, IFFI is celebrating its 50th edition. It’s a number, but in the life of a film festival, 50 is a big number. No, it is not the 50th year of IFFI, because it began in 1952. However, for the first 15 years or so, it remained an event that was held once in several years. Later, it became an annual affair, and by 2019, it had completed 50 editions. Celebrations were in order. And celebrate we did.

Numbers can be a tricky thing, though. Let’s talk about the number of registrations at IFFI 50 and the number of films screened in the 2019 edition: 10,000 and 200/196/300…there are several versions of this figure, so we will pick one and stick to it: 200 films were screened. It was proudly flaunted that the number of registrations, which stood at 7,000 just before the festival began, hit a zenith of 10,000 by the time it was over. That means that the number of persons who, mainly paid or otherwise invited, got their badges to attend the festival, was 10,000. There is no way of knowing how many of them participated in the events, but data can be collated about the films they booked seats for and the shows they attended. Of course there can be no data to tell us whether they sat through a particular film or event. Most booked only one seat a day and next came those who booked two. Only a small minority booked three seats, the maximum allowed to each delegate, other than those from the media, who were allowed five.

There were 10 regular venues, and assuming that the average capacity of each venue was 250, 2,500 persons could be accommodated per show. If all 10,000 sought to see the same show, there would be 7,500 disappointed delegates. Hardly likely, though, with so much variety, so many different films on offer. Even with 10,000, we were often told that particular shows were full and seats were not available. You’d be surprised, though, that I could not get a seat in as many as six films that I wanted to see. This figure of 10,000 can easily touch 15,000. With 15,000, expect more of the same. Moral of the story? Do not keep increasing registrations. Having thousands of disgruntled and disappointed cinema-buffs is nothing to be proud of. Draw a line somewhere. Close registrations at 10,000. And if more capacity is added, in terms of extra and bigger auditoria, increase registrations in proportion.

Same holds true for the number of films. One can watch approximately 30 films, on an average, per delegate, in the entire festival, if the person is a big cineaste. By constantly reminding him/her that you showed 200 or 300 films, you are merely rubbing salt into the wounds. For every 1 film that a film-fan sees, he misses 7-9 others. Here again, be practical and draw a line. This year’s figure of 200 movies was just about reasonable. Anything from 150 to 200 looks fine. Going beyond two hundred, with the same number of screens, will only mean fewer repeats, and there will always be several films that demand and command repeat screenings.

In conclusion, it is possible to register several thousand more delegates and screen a hundred more films, but we need the infrastructure and the screens to cater to such large numbers. Since the interest of the delegate/media-person who registers for a festival is paramount, chasing numbers and winning the numbers game is hardly recommended.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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