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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. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



IFFI 52, 045: The last days of Directorate of Film Festivals

IFFI 52, 045: The last days of Directorate of Film Festivals

Bumping into a senior Films Division (FD) officer at IFFI, I asked him if any preparations had been made for the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF), which, in normal circumstances, would be held in the end of January-beginning of February. The Films Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), Central Government of India, has been making documentary, short and animation films for decades. Very few of these films find a regular release. Most of them, including weekly newsreels, used to be shown before the main feature in all cinemas, mandatorily. This was till the 80s. From the 90s, if I remember correctly, a court decision took away the monopoly of FD and allowed exhibitors to source their documentaries/shorts/animation films from wherever they liked. They decided not to show them at all. Firstly, it saved cost, and, secondly, it prolonged the show, since these films could be up to twenty minutes long.

Taking serious note of this development, FD started organising an international film festival for documentaries and shorts, once every two years. I was part of the selection jury in the early days. Called Bombay International Film Festival, it changed its nomenclature with the change in name of its home city, and became Mumbai International Film Festival. After a successful beginning, it added the category of animation films as well. Beginning in 1990, it has been held every two years, without fail, at different venues, since it did not have the required number and size of auditoria. But a few years ago, it added extra cinemas within its campus at Pedder Road (Gopalrao Deshmukh Marg), and but for a few screenings at the House of Russian Culture, just across the road, all screenings were held at FD. Only the Opening and Closing ceremonies were held outside, in auditoria with capacities of around 1,000, which is a pre-requisite for such events.

Back to my conversation with the senior official. He said that no preparations had been made whatsoever, and it appeared impossible to hold the festival on its scheduled dates in 2022, even if preparations began in December. March end would be the most likely period when the festival could be held, assuming all preparations started immediately, i.e., in the end of November-early December 2021. His feelings were based on practical experience, and could be trusted. But I should have smelt something fishy right there. What on earth were the powers that be, in the I&B Ministry, waiting for? Preparations should have begun in early October, and here we were in late November, with not a finger lifted as yet. Then, on 23 December 2021, the Press Information Bureau of the Central Government of India issued this Press Release.

“With more than 3000 films produced in a year, India is the largest film producer in the world with an industry led by the private sector. To fulfill the commitment to support the films sector, the Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has approved to merge four of its film media units, namely Films Division, Directorate of Film Festivals, National Film Archives of India, and Children's Film Society, India with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Ltd., by expanding the Memorandum of Articles of Association of NFDC, which will then carry out all the activities hitherto performed by them. The merger of Film Media Units under one corporation will lead to convergence of activities and resources and better co-ordination, thereby ensuring synergy and efficiency in achieving the mandate of each media unit.

Films Division, a subordinate office of Ministry of I&B, was established in 1948, primarily to produce documentaries and news magazines for publicity of Government programmes and cinematic record of Indian history.

Children's Film Society, India, an autonomous organisation, was founded in 1955, under the Societies Act, with the specific objective of providing children and young people value-based entertainment through the medium of films.

National Film Archives of India, a subordinate office of Ministry of I&B, was established as a media unit in 1964, with the primary objective of acquiring and preserving Indian cinematic heritage.

Directorate of Film Festivals, as an attached office of the Ministry of I&B, was set up in 1973, to promote Indian films and cultural exchange.

NFDC is a Central Public Sector Undertaking, incorporated in the year 1975, with the primary object of planning and promoting an organised, efficient and integrated development of the Indian Film Industry.

The Union Cabinet which approved the merger of these Media Units in its meeting, also approved the appointment of a Transaction Advisor and Legal Advisor, to advise on the transfer of assets and employees, and to oversee all aspects of operationalisation of the merger.

While undertaking this exercise of convergence, interests of the employees of all the concerned Media Units will be fully taken care of, and no employee will be retrenched.

The umbrella organisation, NFDC, consequent upon the merger of Film Media Units, will be uniquely placed with regard to promotion, production & preservation of filmic content - all under one management. The vision of the new entity will be to ensure balanced and focussed development of Indian cinema in all its genres - feature films, including films/content for the OTT platforms, children's content, animation, short films and documentaries.

The merger of Film Media Units under a single corporation will lead to synergy amongst the various activities with better and efficient utilisation of misting infrastructure and manpower. This will lead to reduction in duplication of activities and direct savings to the exchequer.”

My comments follow, in Part 046.

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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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