The 21st Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) from November 14 to 21 will showcase 149 films by 137 directors from 61 countries. In a bid to bring good world cinema to Kolkata and make it accessible to the common man, 12 venues have been selected. Twenty three Indian films will be screened.
Last year the KIFF became a competitive festival. This year for the second time the Royal Bengal Trophy will be awarded to the best film and best director and the focus is on films directed by women.
The Rs 51 lakh award for the best film is presently the single largest cash award at any international film festival.
The state government created Nandan, the West Bengal Film Centre in 1985 as film buffs clamoured for the city’s own film festival. It was inaugurated by legendary film-maker Satyajit Ray. Twenty one years ago the festival started on a quiet note, now it’s in another league.
Last year the inauguration of the film festival saw an audience of 10,000 at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. This year Amitabh Bachchan will inaugurate the event. The officials putting together this mammoth show give full credit to the enthusiasm of West Bengal’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee. Atri Bhattacharya, Secretary, Information and Cultural Affairs points out, “Because of our Chief Minister the film festival has been transformed from an intellectual exercise into a mass celebration of cinema.”
Last year the KIFF had a budget of Rs 7 crore and it spent Rs 5.34 crore out of which Rs 1 crore was the amount given out as awards. This year the budget has gone up marginally.
KIFF has now introduced a few interesting sections. Out of the 15 categories, there is one titled ‘India Unheard’ where there will be films in languages and little known dialects like Nepali, Tulu, Rava, Konkani and Ladakhi.
The festival will also have a segment exhibiting six films with sports-related themes. Films like Kony, Chariots of Fire, Raging Bull, Escape to Victory and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag will be shown.
KIFF will have a Retrospective section and celebrate the work of Jean Renoir, the French film-maker and actor who made over 40 films from the silent era to the end of the 60s. Among his six films which will be screened are The Grand Illusion, The River and French Cancan.
The festival will also pay tribute to celebrated Portuguese film-director and screenwriter, Manoel de Oliveira who passed away in April this year. Six of his films will be screened including Magic Mirror, The Strange Case of Angelica, Gebo and The Shadow.
Not only will film buffs get to see world-class cinema, organisers are also planning workshops, a film adda, a film quiz as well as a Satyajit Ray Memorial lecture. KIFF which has its own Twitter feed is involving young people by holding poster competitions and a ‘Make your own short film on the Festival’.
Passionate about films, the city has much to look forward to. The local film industry, which is on a high as Kolkata has become a much-appreciated setting for several acclaimed Bollywood films, too will receive further boost.
(The writer is a Kolkata-based senior journalist.)