By Yudhishthir Raj Isar
UNESCO’s United Nations Creative Economy Report 2013 was sub-titled ‘Widening Local Development Pathways’. The report surveyed how cultural industries – such as film – actually get built and sustained worldwide. It reviews how festivals actually contribute to urban and regional development across the world.
To act as local catalyst, a film festival needs to become a kind of glue, binding together existing local production and distribution streams, whether cultural, or in the service, tourism and hospitality sector, as well as supply and transport. Personal enthusiasm, passion and intense fandom are important. All are clearly abundant at IFFI 2016. But even more important for local development is getting people to work together across different pathways, to connect the dots.
Rajendra Talak, the recently appointed Vice-Chairman of the Entertainment Society of Goa, understands this necessity. He shared with me his dream of making IFFI “the world’s best” by its 50th edition in 2019, saying, “the moment you have the best films, and the best people coming, the world media automatically becomes attracted.” Talak is aware that climbing to the apex position in the world will require spending significant sums of money, but believes “spending maybe two crores on getting just one film could give IFFI twenty crores worth of publicity.” Tripling the existing IFFI budget of just 15 crores – a relative pittance for an ambitious global event – is his primary ambition at the moment. As for a local development strategy, the ESG Vice-Chairman aims to prioritise partnership building with TV channels, business houses and the tourism sector. He believes the Film Bazaar also needs to expand significantly, and be made an integral part of IFFI – just as its equivalents are in Berlin or Cannes.
Looking to get some perspective on these plans, I talked to at the writer-director Kaushal Oza at Film Bazaar. An FTII graduate, his “Afterglow” (2012) was screened at IFFI’s Indian Panorama in 2013 (and won the National Award for Best Short Film the same year).
He was doubtful about what advantages could accrue if IFFI absorbed the NFDC’s premiere event. Oza underlined the multiple opportunities the Film Bazaar offers for pitching projects to prospective producers, investors and distributors, both in India and abroad It is crucial for making co-production deals, for networking and knowledge transfer, and for professional team building. He’s positive about the knowhow of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which makes the Film Bazaar work well for film makers.
Acknowledging better coordination between NFDC and IFFI would be a good thing, Oza said “a lot of politics can get involved when the Ministry organizes an event… this year there seems to be an unofficial blanket ban on any student film coming out of FTII, and that has made film programmers seriously doubt the value of IFFI’s programming.” Given this perception, could parallel development and two independent events be a better, more practical and realistic development option than actually trying to connect all the dots?
Yudhishthir Raj Isar, who divides his time between Paris and Goa, is an international cultural policy expert.