The city of joy has always been a paradise for cine lovers, film critics, aspiring filmmakers, actor and many more. But once in a year all these individuals assembles at a particular place with a common motto-‘ to quench their thirst for cinema’ at the Kolkata International Film Festival. On its silver jubilee year the KIFF provided yet another golden opportunity for film buffs with 213 feature films from 76 countries along with 152 documentary and short films screened across 7 venues.
The inauguration of the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival was one of the most glossy events in recent times. What was once a solemn annual celebration of and for the city’s film buffs is now a mega event. If the full house inauguration in Netaji Indoor Stadium and the long queues inside Nandan campus made you think that the city is full of voracious consumers of substantial movies, you are missing the whole picture.
Though the enthusiasm of cine lovers was missing on the first day due to Bulbul’s untimely arrival but crowd started thronging once the weather came back to normalcy. These season kickstarted with the first screening of 1969 Italian Classic ‘Quiemeda’ followed by screenings of several restored classics in the first halves. As this year’s focus country was Germany audience got a chance to witness numerous German cinema’s by directors of great repute like Alexander Kluge,Volker Schlöndorff and many more. Like every year cinema’s from Middle East and France were quite the crowd pullers but cinema’s from countries like Guatemala, Cuba, Bhutan delivered some highly commendable experiences like the film Lunana- A yak in the classroom from Bhutan, about the life of the most remote village in Bhutan and The weeping Woman from Guatemala, ahorror film based on the recent Guatemala genocide proved to be really stellar. This edition of KIFF even had films by maestro’s round the globe like Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varila, Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory, Jean Pierre’s Young Ahmed, Dr. Biju’s Trees under the sun, Goutam Ghose’s Rahgir and Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Uro Jahaj. Apart from the numerous film screenings the other facets of this year’s KIFF were the masterclasses conducted by Volker Schlöndorff and Andie Macdowell followed by this year’s Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture conducted by renowned Indian filmmaker Kumar Shahani.
Though one looks up to the Kolkata International Film Festival yet there has been a paradigm shift in how one should see an international film festival. In the zeal to make KIFF a mass event, the importance of film appreciation has been ignored hugely in the past few years, and that has degraded the quality of viewers. Parallelly, the film society movement has faded in recent years, partly because of more availability of films online and partly due to a mass ignorance about the importance of dialogue related to art and craft of cinema.In order to cater to that mass and with a notion to encourage aspiring makers, KIFF has stepped down a bit in terms of selection of films to be screened, making contemporary Bengali films a priority and adding many amateurish short films in the bouquet. The open forum of the festival that had earlier witnessed debates among the best of directors and critics, has now turned into a live performance arena and promotional platform for the city’s mainstream film industry. In a time where film society movement has lost the influx of people, an initiative like KIFF is supposed to trigger substantial dialogues related to the craft of cinema, but it is going the other way round.