DFF BEHIND THE SCENES
BY AAKASH CHHABRA AND SAGAR MAHINDRA
The sourcing and the curation of the films, managing screening rights and screening fees, scheduling and above all watching an insane number of films,” said Dipika Suseelan, are the main elements of her job description as the senior programmer at the International Film Festival of India. She used to head the department of programming at the International Film Festival of Kerala in Trivandrum for four years before joining the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) in 2017. Now she watches as many as 400 films just six months for IFFI, which prompts total abstention from screens for the remaining months of the year.
Suseelan told us, “we release our regulations for submissions at Cannes every year for the World Panorama and Competition sections. A steering commit- tee chooses the Indian films. The Festival Kaleidoscope features films which do tremendously well at festivals around the world and The Master Frame screens the latest works of filmmakers who have already cemented their legacy. We have to consistently followed major film festivals, development labs, film markets and sales agents. I cannot attend all these events. So for these sections we have to rely on the buzz, the reviews and goodwill of the film. There are years when we have to struggle to fill the gaps in our schedule, and then there are years when rejecting films feels painful. Every festival has a unique voice and we have to ensure we maintain that sanctity. Sometimes we screen ‘bad films’ too. We could either reject them or play them and let the audience decide for themselves.”
Hari Geetha Sadasivan, who set the schedule, for the festival this year, told us, “deciding when and where a film should be screened at the festival is partly based on the availability of presenters or representatives. And then there are technical prerequisites. A film with a specific aspect ratio or sound design may be appropriate only for a particular venue. There are films which work the best at the festival multiplex, but not at Maquinez Palace or Kala Academy. And above all of this are what could be called public considerations. We had to reschedule the screening of the Konkani feature Amori (2019) after a request from Chief Minister’s office. It was scheduled to play at the Maquinez palace but now we’ll play it at a bigger venue. From this year onwards we have ensured such changes are communicated well in advance to the delegates via SMS or email. But whatever the reason, it falls on us.”
Ankur Lahoti, who handles IFFI’s Master Classes and In-Conversation Sessions told us, “there are several things happening for the first time at IFFI this year. We came up with an anthem, we also released a postage stamp selected from a competition that we conducted. Open air screenings held at the Miramar beach and the Jogger’s Park are screen- ing classics as well as contemporary films. Yesterday, we registered a footfall of more than 2000 people for those. To conduct a festival of this stature, the preparations begin well in advance. For this year’s edition the planning started last year. The festival gets over on the 28th for everyone but for us it is the beginning of the upcoming year’s event. We have made some mistakes in the process but it’s all part of learning.”
Assistant Film Co-Ordinator, Hemanth N who previously worked for Bangalore International Film Festival is glad to associate with IFFI for the first time. “This is a huge event, we have famous personalities from different parts of the world. From arranging a translator to taking care of their pick up and drop, everything needs to be planned well in advance. Our hospitality partners have been great and we have not received any complaints from the guest so far. We are a small team of 3 people who handles different zones. There is tremendous pressure to make all the arrangements in perfect manner. We can’t afford to make mistakes especially when all eyes are on us.”
Read more from The Peacock: Issue 7 (2019) here: