IFFI HERITAGE TRAIL
BY SAMIRA SHETH
When the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) shifted to Goa permanently 15 years ago, it couldn’t have picked a better location. The stunning heritage infrastructure of the capital city of India’s smallest state provides the perfect backdrop for this annual unspooling of global film culture.
By locating the festival here, the late CM Manohar Parrikar triggered a wonderful chain reaction for the city. He renovated the old Goa Medical College, once the oldest medical college in Asia, as well as the neighbouring 17th century Maquinez Palace. The entire area received a much needed facelift, and Panjim’s Latinate neighborhoods now boast a number of lovely examples of adaptive reuse of centuries-old buildings.
From the ESG buildings to the old GMC up to Miramar beach, where evening shows are free and open to the public, the many screening venues of IFFI extend through one of the prettiest and most historically significant areas of Goa.
Built in 1702, the Palacio dos Maquinezes still boasts of the grandeur of bygone times with its magnificent proportions. Next door, the Escola Medico Cirurgica de Goa (renamed as GMC) has served generations of citizens, and sent its graduates across the oceans in a wide arc from Mozambique to Macau and onwards to Brazil and Portugal.
If you walk up the red carpeted steps to the Maquinez auditoriums and take a left you would have once been at the doors of the Skin and Orthopaedic wards of the hospital, with lecture halls on the right. Functioning as an active hospital until about 1933, the little chapel on site still holds an Annual Mass to offer prayers for doctors. Interestingly, stethoscopes are also blessed during this service.
As you come out and walk along the Mandovi riverfront promenade towards Kala Academy, please enjoy the sense of history permeating the air. If you take the inner route along the tree lined avenue of the Dayanand Bandodkar road you will pass through the remarkably picturesque area of Campal, laid out by the dynamic Portuguese Viceroy Dom Manuel de Portugal e Castro between 1827-35.
Imbued with a glorious sense of history, the area features some of Goa’s most magnificent old homes, centered around a grand statue of Francisco Luis Gomes, one of the great intellectual figures the 19th century, who represented Goa in the Portuguese parliament and demanded “liberty and light for India” long before other Indians voiced similar nationalist sentiments.
Further down the road is the storied Kala Academy, one jewel from the legacy illustrious Goan architect Charles Correa. Considered one of the finest examples of modern architecture in the country, the low lying structure offers a welcoming space for learning and lovely views of the river, the lighthouse and the glorious Reis Magos fort on the opposite banks of the Mandovi. A strong sense of location only enhances a film’s appeal.
Now take a moment between screenings to appreciate the location of IFFI in this marvelous heritage precinct.
Illustration by Oriana Fernandez. You can follow her work on instagram.com/oriana_fernandez_/
Read more from The Peacock: Issue 8 (2019) here: