In a year when major world events like the Summer Olympics, Wimbledon, Euro, San Diego Comic-Con, Baftas, Golden Globes and even Oscars were cancelled owing to health hazards posed due to Covid 19, many raised eyebrows as the dates of the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival were shifted from November 2020 to January 2021.
Writer-director Tanuja Chandra says she missed the fun and buzz of film festivals in Mumbai and Goa, though she attended a few online. “My documentary film featured in several virtual film festivals last year, which was a wonderful opportunity for it to be seen both in India and abroad. I’m glad these film festivals were held during the pandemic because in an unprecedented tragic and extraordinarily difficult situation stories were able to bring a little comfort to people and create bonds across huge distances,” she said.
“We have been receiving a lot of messages and phone calls from across the country and also abroad. Everyone wanted to know how things would turn out since we are the only ones who have gone ahead with the festival. We did not want to do anything online because we believe people are tired of staying at home and we want them to come out but of course with all precautions in place. I am really thankful to everyone in my team who worked so hard to make this happen,” said director Raj Chakraborty, one of the organisers.
The crowd, however, did soak it all in. Though most people wore masks and carried sanitisers, it was quite difficult to maintain an arm’s distance on Nandan complex in Kolkata. In fact, the organisers too were surprised with crowd turnout at the festival.
This year also marked the centenary celebrations of Satyajit Ray. The Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture this year was delivered by the Article 15 director Anubhav Sinha. “Since most of us are hooked to OTT, this festival might turn into a great way of welcoming the audience into watching films in the theatres again. We need the audiences’ support now more than ever,” said Sinha.
Special tributes were also paid to Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor and Soumitra Chatterjee apart from Fernando Solanas, Kim Ki-duk, Basu Chatterjee, Federico Fellini, Eric Rohmer, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Bhanu and Amala Shankar. As many as 82 feature films and 50 short and documentary films from 45 countries were screened at eight festival venues across the city.