The stage is being set for the 14th edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) for Short, Documentary and Animation films to be held from January 28 to February 3, the venues being Films Division, The Russian Centre and Sophia College Auditorium at Peddar Road and Doordarshan Studio at Worli.
Having begun in 1990 this is the 14th edition as it is held every second year. The usually sleepy FD premises is buzzing with activity, boards being carried to and from, personnel walking at a brisk pace and the directors Mukesh Sharma, V. Pakirisami and Anil Kumar conducting meetings, answering phone calls and attending to sundry issues that keep cropping up.
The honour of fathering MIFF goes to V.B. Chandra who was the MD at the time and it is a good thing for the documentary movement which had been neglected over the years. Also, making FD documentaries compulsory at cinemas was a handicap. Today, however, thanks a Supreme Court ruling, even independent documentary filmmakers’ films are being screened.
Indian documentaries have also been sent to international festivals, like Rome, New York, Fiji, Hot Dogs (Canada) in 2014-2015 and to Berlin, Leipzig (Germany), Astra (Romania), Paris, Rotterdam, Locarno and Busan in 2015-16.
In the 1960s the then Information & Broadcasting Minister Indira Gandhi inducted Jean Bhavanagiri from UNICEF to the Films Division inject new life into the organization. This he did by getting off-beat filmmakers or Young Turks like S.Sukdev (“India 67” and “9 Months to Freedom”), Mani Kaul, Kumar Shahani and S.N.S.Sastry among others. This writer has been involved with the Films Division since then and remembers Sukdev’s candid camera of a dog peeing. It took viewers by surprise in those early days.
In the second edition Canadian filmmakers Peter Wintonik and Mark Achbar ‘s “Manufacturing Consent,” was screened It was about Noam Chomsky arguably the staunchest anti-American critic and put him on the Indian map. It is therefore not surprising that the following year Chomsky visited India.
In the International Competition there are 30 films from 14 countries, with India having 12 of them including five animation films. These include “Original Copy” made in Germany and “Queen of Thailand,” made in Poland. The winning films will be screened at the major centres of the country to encourage the documentary movement.
In the National Competition there are 27 films including “Muzzafarnagar Eventually” by Nakul Singh Sawhney and “Our Metropolis” about the Bangalore Metro.
There are Retrospectives on Don Askarian (Germany), Fernando Melgar (Switzerland), Gitanjali Rao and Naresh Bedi (both Indian). Special packages include Afghan Documentary Film Festival (Adff,Sweeden), Berlinale, Dokleipzig and Dresden (Germany) and Zagreb (Croatia).
In the Homage section are Harun Faroki and Michael Glawogger (Germany) and Babu Ramaswamy, K.K.Chandran, Krishna Mohan, Nirad N. Mohaptra, Odessa Satyan,Rajagopal Rao and Prem Vaidya.
Bhimsain Khurana’s book “Incomplete Story of Animation” will also be released during the festival which will be attended by 1200 delegates, 400 guests, 400 officials and 100 journalists.