Nothing could be truer than what Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said at the 49th edition of the International Film Festival of India’s (IFFI) 2018 opening session about India being a ‘land of storytellers where every person had a story to tell’. IFFI 2018 was a bonanza of highs and lows over nine days from November 20, 2018, to November 28, 2018, transforming Goa into a magical maze.
Director Julien Landais and cast members presented the opening film, The Aspern Papers, on day one while Sealed Lips had its world premiere when it closed the festival on day nine.
IFFI 2018 also had master classes by experts in the entertainment industry. For the first time, street cinema was held open to tourists visiting the state. More than 220 films from 67 countries were screened. In all, 26 feature films and 21 non-feature films were screened in the Indian Panorama section.
Replying to a query on some films being rejected for being ‘anti-national’, Chairman of Jury, Indian Panorama (Feature) Rahul Rawail asserted there is no such thing as an anti-national film and the jury considers all films that come before it as Indian films. He stated that the controversy regarding omission of certain films from Indian Panorama is unfortunate and the jury was given full autonomy in arriving at its decisions.
Also, in IFFI 2018 Israel was made the focus country and veteran Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman was given the Lifetime Achievement Award. Speaking on the occasion, he said, “Thank you…It is sweeter because I am receiving it in India – a country whose people, culture and phenomenal cinema I truly admire.”
Also, Jharkhand was made the focus state; this is for the first time that any state was made a focus state. For the first time in IFFI, six Indian sports biopics including ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ along with Gold, ‘Mary Kom’, ‘1983’, ‘MS Dhoni – The Untold Story’ and ‘Soorma’, were screened as an extension of the Khelo India initiative. They were screened on the lines of ‘open screenings’ at international film festivals like Cannes and Locarno.
During a ‘Konversation With Kapoor’s’ with Rumi Jaffrey and Boney Kapoor on films, actor Janhvi Kapoor recited a self-written poem on her mother and late actor Sridevi. Speaking about the ‘Golden Era’ of Hindi cinema being far ahead of the times, she said, “I feel we have got tangled into a trap, a commercial one. I think the freedom to tell the story was more earlier,” she said. She spoke of how films like Mr and Mrs 55 celebrated feminism even back then.
Among the more prominent developments at IFFI was the launch of the web portal of Film Facilitation Office. It will not only enable online submission of applications for international filmmakers but also list India’s co-production treaties and guidelines of key central government ministries and departments.
Keeping it real, Kamakhya Narayan Singh, director of Bhor, a film based on the Musahar community in UP, maintained, “I wanted to tell the world about some real stories around us. Hence I contacted the Musahars and requested them to let us stay with them for two months. From wearing their clothes to eating the way they eat, we delved into the life they live.”
Baaram, a film which focused on Thalaikoothal, a traditional practice of senicide which had social sanction, was one of the two Indian films selected out of 12 films nominated in ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Medal competition. Salim Khan was awarded the Lifetime Contribution to Cinema award at IFFI 2018, collected by son Arbaaz Khan. Salim later dedicated the award to Indore — his birthplace, Mumbai and the Hindi film industry.
“It is sad that in a country that gave the world Kamasutra, we are hesitant to talk about sex,” said Leena Yadav during ‘Calling The Shots’: Women directors in Indian Cinema – held between Gauri Shinde, Meghna Gulzar and Leena Yadav in which they talked about gender equality, women-centric stories and more.
On her film Parched, Leena said, “When we were called by CBFC, we realised that they were slightly on the back foot because of the awards that the film had won internationally. They told us that the film would be given an ‘A’ rating, which we were fine with. Then they pointed at the chest area and said that ‘it’ will have to be blurred, referring to the scenes involving frontal nudity. I asked them, “It what? Breasts?” The panel members jumped in shock at my utterance of the word. It is sad that in a country that gave the world Kamasutra, we are hesitant to talk about sex, because well you know, children in India are found in temples and sex has nothing to do with it.”