Organized by the Indian government, the recently concluded International Film Festival of India provided a platform for some important discussions and showcased some great cinematic gems from the country as well as from across the globe. Apart from the regional cinema and some controversial films such as The Kashmir Files, the festival also screened films in Sanskrit.
France was the Country of Spotlight at the festival this year – India was also the Country of Honor at Cannes Film Festival 2022. Yesteryear star Asha Parekh made a special appearance at the festival as three of her popular films were screened at the fest under In Retrospective section. The Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement award was given to Spanish filmmaker Carlos Suara.
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Sanskrit is an important part of Indian culture but not many films have been made in the ancient language. Less than 20 films have been made to date – the first one was the National Film Award winning movie by GV Iyer, Adi Shankaracharya (1983). In his era, Iyer was the only one to make films in Sanskrit. Since then, films, far and few, have been made in the language.
IFFI has also been screening a few of the Sanskrit films over the years. In the 53rd edition of the film festival, documentaries Yaanam and Khajuraho Anand Aur Mukti were screened. Yaanam is directed by Vinod Mankara, and is about India’s successful Mars Mission. The documentary is based on the autobiographical book My Odyssey by former Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization Dr Radhakrishnan. Khajuraho Anand Aur Mukti, directed by Ramji Om and Deepika Kothari, was also screened at the festival and explores the philosophical mysteries behind the popularly known erotic sculptures.
Use of tech and corporatization in Indian Films
From the use of technology such as AI, to the very basic and practical issue of investment and corporatization of films in the country, artists gathered at the festival to talk about all that can help improvise filmmaking in the country. Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur was joined by Oscar winning musician-filmmaker AR
Addressing the in-conversation session, Rahman and Kapur discussed how innovation and self-realization can help artists stay ahead of technology and avoid getting replaced by it.
Rahman shared his love for AI and said it enables everyone to make films and create a world they envision. Kapur, however, wondered if technology can trained to feel emotions such as hope and fear. Emotions drive stories and films, and that is where, perhaps, tech can never match up with creative human minds.
Filmmakers Abhishek Sharma, Anees Bazmee and Vikas Bahl joined Uunchai producer Mahaveer Jain for a discussion on the corporatization of the film industry. They agreed that corporatization has helped streamline the functioning of the industry, but added that the artists need to stay true to their creativity and originality to ensure that filmmaking does not end up becoming a mechanical business.
Several other discussions, masterclasses and sessions were held at the fest. These included masterclass sessions about the various aspects of filmmaking (animation, writing, lights, performance, etc).
The fest ended with a controversy that blew up. During the closing ceremony, Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid who was the jury head at the festival, criticized the screening of The Kashmir Files at the fest and even called it “vulgar and propaganda” movie. Sudipto Sen, the only Indian filmmaker on the jury, claimed it was Lapid’s personal views that he expressed. However, three other jury members – American producer Jinko Gotoh, French film editor Pascale Chavance and French documentary filmmaker Javier Angulo Barturen – issued a joint statement to extend their support to Lapid’s statements.
Directed by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, The Kashmir Files tells the tale of the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits that took place in the 1990s in the Indian valley of Kashmir. When the film released earlier this year, it was criticized for alleged demonization of the Muslim community. On his part, Agnihotri has reiterated time and again that his film only portrays the cruelty faced by the victims and their families.
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