YET another edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was a damp squib. Poor programming, mismanagement and the absence of marquee names have plagued the festival over several years — but the 2015 edition was particularly lacklustre. With the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, protest moving to the festival venue, the chaos only multiplied.
Oscar-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty, an IFFI regular, summed up the mood. “Worst #IFFI2015 I have ever been, no proper arrangement, no coordination, nobody knows why somebody is invited, worst hotels, really feel sad!” he tweeted. British director-screenwriter Michael Radford, one the members of IFFI jury, pointed at the cut-outs of Bollywood stars at venues such as Kala Academy and asked, “Where are these stars?” “At the Toronto International Film festival, I have seen the influence of stars. People even plan their holidays based on the dates of a festival,” he added.
Apart from Anil Kapoor and AR Rahman, chief guests at the opening and closing ceremony respectively, not many popular faces were seen at the festival. C Senthil Rajan, Director of the Film Festival, said the focus was on inviting directors, producers and technicians. He claimed that nearly 750 of them were present though the festival missed the buzz that a good gathering of film personalities can create. IFFI has hosted international film personalities, such as Michelle Yeoh, Susan Sarandon, Tony Leung and Wong Kar-Wai in the past but such big names were missing this time round.
Compared to this, National Film Development Corporation’s Film Bazaar, organised alongside IFFI,was thronged by filmmakers, producers, actors and directors. With several new additions to its schedule, it managed to rope in Anurag Kashyap, Nandita Das, Shoojit Sircar, Prakash Jha, Anurag Basu, Rohan Sippy and Kabir Khan, among others. Film Bazaaar, in its ninth year, continues to enjoy a lot of prominence and interest with its successful properties such as Film Tourism Workshop, Scriptwriters Lab and Co-production Market.
What caught most participants off-guard was the poor delegate turnout. Though the organisers had pegged the total online registration at 7,000, official figures indicated that only a little over 3,500 collected their delegate cards. Most screenings saw less than 50 per cent attendance. Some cited the increase in the registration fee from Rs 300 to Rs 1,000 for the decrease in footfall. In 2014, 13,000 delegates had registered for IFFI.
IFFI had at its disposal 2,538 seats across seven screening venues — each of them, on an average, projected seven shows per day (altogether 406 shows as per the brochure). That gave the organisers a capacity of releasing 1,77,660 tickets during the 10-day festive. However, according to the Ministry of Information and Broadcast, it released just over 80,000 tickets, which amounts to approximately 45 per cent of the occupancy.
Despite screenings at the Azad Maidan, the local community participation was negligible. “Last year, there were stalls selling food and artefacts, unlike this time,” said Srinivas K, a local resident.