Saturday, February 04, 2006

MIFF gets underway ... a report from Mumbai

This is by Ervell E Menezes, a senior writer on films.... MIFF: A curtain-raiser (by Ervell E Menezes) From: The Navhind Times, January 29, 2006
WITH D-DAY fast approaching, the Films Division offices at Peddar Road, Mumbai, are buzzing with activity. E-mails are being sent, phones rining and folks running helter-skelter. For, on February 3, MIFF06 or the Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films begins. It will last till February 9. The Festival, also known as the Documnentary Festival, takes place every alternate year. Beginning in 1990, this is its 9th year and it has been growing in popularity and stature with each passing year. Over 160 films have been entered in the competition sections (national and international) and cash prizes amounting to Rs 900,000 will be disbursed. It is a festival looked forward to by documentary film-makers who find it a key venue to showcase their art. It is MIFF that first introduced American phonetics professor and arguably the biggest critic of America, Noam Chomsky, to India. Marilyn Warring, a new Zealand MP, also had her film -- on the hours housewives worked without salary -- shown at MIFF. That was in the 1990s, but even in the millennium MIFF has been a platform for many political films on South American nations. Indian subjects too have got vast exposure, with Ranjan Palit's *Baliapal* winning the Golden Conch in the inaugural year. Anand Patwardhan too won a few awards at MIFF. But, last year, MIFF ran into trouble because of alleged censorship. This in fact gave birth to Vikalp, or a parallel festival with Vikalp demanding that Clause 8 be removed from the rules. The clause states, "Selection of films/videos for competition will be made by a committee whose decision will be final. However, Festival authorities reserve the right to accept or not to accept any film, if it is likely to offend the feelings and sensibilities of any country and/or promote racism or any other reason the Festival authority consider to be sufficient for acceptance or non-acceptance of a film/video." The Festival authorities have, this year, assured the documentary filmmakers that the clause would not be put into practice, but they would not delete the clause. They also inducted Vikalp members in the selection panel, and everything went on smoothly. Only filmmaker Sabe Dewan has withdrawn her film on bar girls, "Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi" on that count after she decided to enter it. There is a wide range of subjects, both national and international, and it would be impossible to go into most of them. We shall, however, just touch the tip of the iceberg. AFSPA 1958, Continuous Journey, Holy Men and Fools, Idealist James Beveridge, Film Guru and Between Midnight and Rooster Crow are recommended in the international section, while Waiting, Riding Solo to the Top of the World, Here is My Nocturne, Midshot -- an Experiment with Truth, Village Football and (In)visible City are must-sees on the national front. There are two films named Waiting, but we refer to the documentary on Kashmir. The international jury will be headed by British-based African film-maker John Akomfrah with Lasse Naukkarinen (Finland), Sato Makoto (Japan), Lisa Goldman (US) and Nirad Mohapatra (India) in it. Sumitra Peries (Sri Lanka) will head the national jury which will comprise Manjira Dutta, Gautam Bora, Kireet Khurana and K Hariharan (all India). There will also be retrospectives of jury members Lasse Naukkarinen, John Akomfrah, Sato Makoto and Lisa Goldman. There is also an excellent package of Australian documentary films with a special emphasis on aborigines made by indigenous film-makers. Probably for the first time we shall be exposed to Iranian films from "Iranian Independents". We are already aware of Iran's brilliance in the feature film realm. MIFF also pays homage to J S Bhownagary, N S Thapa, Vijay B Chandra (all India) and Margaret Tail (UK). Chandra was the first director of MIFF. Short films of the legendary comedian Buster Keaton will also be screened. So there is an infinite variety of films that is bound to satiate the palate of the documentary film buffs and many roads (from Mumbai and the rest of India) should lead to the Ravi Natya Mandir in Prabhadevi, the venue of MIFF06. Enjoy...

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