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Students rave about MIFF 2022

Students from Arena Animation’s Vile Parle campus at the Films Division complex
Students from Arena Animation’s Vile Parle campus at the Films Division complex

The Films Division complex on Gopalrao Deshmukh Marg, better known as Pedder Road, is one of the Mumbai city’s prettiest enclaves, although it’s a moot point how long that will remain preserved, considering the powers that be have hinted at its closure.

Heedless of the uncertain future, people flocked to the FD between May 29 and June 4. The Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF 2022) was a bonanza of documentaries, short films, workshops, master classes, special packages comprising Oscar-winning films apart from a large number of student films from institutions across the country notably MIT ADT University Institute of Design, Pune, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Auroville Film Institute, Pondicherry and the Satyajit Ray Film and TV Institute, Kolkata.

Sudesh Balan, director of Silver Conch winner Saakshatkaaram, is a Communication Design faculty member at the IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay, of which he is also an alumnus

Approximately 4,000 film lovers registered as delegates, including 1,400 students. Bangladesh was the ‘Country of Focus’ this year in commemoration of its 50 years of independence, and 11 films from the country were presented during MIFF 2022.

The Dutch film Turn Your Body To The Sun, directed by Aliona Van der Horst, bagged the Golden Conch for the Best Documentary of the Festival. There were handsome cash prizes in addition to the beautiful trophy. The Golden Conch awardee won Rs 10 lakhs.

Polish animation film Prince In A Pastry Shop won the Silver Conch in the International Category and bagged the prize money of Rs 5 lakhs and a trophy. Polish Consul General Damien Irzyk accepted the award on behalf of the film director, Katarzyna Agopsowicz.

Malayalam film Saakshatkaaram and Gudmund Helsmsal’s Brother Toll, a film from Faroe Islands of Denmark in the Faroese language, shared the Silver Conch for Best Short Fiction in the International Category. Saakshatkaaram’s director, Sudesh Balan, is a Communication Design faculty member at the IDC School of Design in IIT Bombay, of which he is also an alumnus.

Eighteen documentary films from Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Panama, South Korea and the U.K., besides India, were in the International Competition section of MIFF 2022.

Yoav Michaeli, playwright, director and co-founder of Beersheba Fringe Theatre, showcased in Dan Wolman’s film The Fringe’s Heart

Eminent film director, Shyam Benegal, lauded non-feature filmmakers saying that they are self-motivated to make films that usually don’t have an audience unlike mainstream films. “When you make a documentary or a short film you don’t have an ensured audience unlike a feature film; you make a short film because you are totally self-motivated; the inspiration to make the film has to come from within.”

Interestingly, there were only five films shortlisted for the Best Student Films Award from the renowned Indian Documentary Producers Association (IDPA).

Jury chairperson for the National competition of MIFF 2022, Sanjit Narvekar, expressed his views on this occasion. “We watched a total of 67 movies and observed a radical change in the way short films are made.” He lamented that the number of documentaries was low and noted that the number of films made by the students were only five in total which was disappointing. He suggested that it should be increased. There was a separate section for student films in the past, and he strongly urged for its re-opening.

International segment chairperson, French-Irani filmmaker, Mina Rad, exhorted young people to participate in large numbers and commended the winner, Megha, a Bengali film directed by Rishi Bhaumik.

Poster of Malayalam film Saakshatkaaram

The titular character is a little girl who harbours a horrifying secret that slowly distorts her sense of reality. The film was adjudged awards winner for its “rare use of animation to tackle a serious theme which is rarely spoken about even within family circles and for its unerring use of colour which enhances and underscores the poignancy of the theme”, cited the jury. The award carries a trophy, certificate and prize money of Rs 1 lakh.

Some lucky kids managed to attend the weeklong fest in its entirety; others not so fortunate, could catch only a couple of days. One group from the Arena School of Animation in Vile Parle came especially for the VFX screenings. “We’re so happy to be here,” said Sayli, “even if it’s not for the entire duration of the festival.”

When asked to name their favourite VFX film, they chorused, Pacific Rim (the American science fiction monster film directed by Guillermo del Toro).

It must be mentioned that away from the hustle and bustle of the bi-annual fest, the IDPA, which has tied up with city colleges for free screenings and film appreciation workshops online and offline, plans to expand its footprint across India.

In the recent past, special packages of select documentary films were curated for off-campus screenings at Mumbai University (Kalina campus), Deviprasad Goenka Management College of Media Studies (Malad), Usha Pravin Gandhi College of Arts, Science and Commerce (Vile Parle) among other institutions. The Master Classes connecting the Industry with the Market were a big hit with young delegates.

A scene from Polish animation film Prince In A Pastry Shop

In his Master Class, poet, writer, lyricist, screenwriter and adman, Prasoon Joshi, encouraged young aspirants to begin writing stories based on their own first hand experiences and feelings, “Write about what you know and what you feel about… The next stage would be to write by drawing from others’ experiences,” he said.

Israeli filmmaker, academic (professor in NYU, among other institutions) and MIFF juror Dan Wolman screened his 2020 film The Fringe’s Heart which focuses on two productions of the Beersheba Fringe Theatre co-founded by Yoav Michaeli: Be-Polar (inspired by Nikolai Gogol’s Diary Of A Madman) and Goral Hagra, Yoav’s biographical play about an ancient Kabbalistic ritual that helped identify 35 young paramilitaries who were killed and mutilated by Arabs in 1948 at Kfar Etzion near Jerusalem. For Yoav, the film is intensely personal since among the youths killed was his teenaged Uncle Amnon, “who was more like a father to us children, since our own father had deserted us.”

Also making a pitch for personalised filmmaking is Carter Pilcher, Founder-CEO of ShortsTV, a leading short movie entertainment company. It is interesting that like journalists of yesteryear who never went to journalism school, Pilcher did not receive formal education in the creation of moving images. He has been repeatedly nominated for his short films and is on the board of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

“So inspirational,” said a young dropout who dreams of participating at MIFF with a film.

Ravinder Bhakar, Managing Director, NFDC India & Director, MIFF, speaking at the valedictory function said, “We will try to make this festival even bigger and support filmmakers in the best possible manner.”

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Ronita Torcato is a government-accredited journalist, film critic, amateur historian, traveller and social media communicator.

Ronita Torcato

Ronita Torcato is a government-accredited journalist, film critic, amateur historian, traveller and social media communicator.