Ladakh scaled, but intl heights elude Indian film fests

Written by Sudipta Datta | Kolkata | Updated: Jun 17 2012, 07:02am hrs
Poor planning, low budgets, lack of market keep India low in film fest pecking order globally

French, Australian, Indian, Iranian films are in competition for the debut Ladakh International Film Festival (LIFF), being held from June 15-17. Chairman Shyam Benegal wants to create a festival that is totally distinct from other film festivals. The aspiration, he says, is to use a unique place like Ladakh, 13,000 ft above sea level, and make the festival the best on the roof of the world. Organisers also claim it to be the first ever completely green international film festival in India.

LIFF is one of the several international film festivals that the country hosts through the year, including the biggest and government-sponsored one, the International Film Festival of India held in Goa, besides the Mumbai Film Festival, Pune, Jaipur, Kolkata and Kerala. But despite India being a major film market and home to Bollywood, none of these fests are really on the international circuit, like a Cannes or Berlin or Venice is.

Srinivasan Narayanan, director, Mumbai film festival, says though IFFI began its journey in 1952, it still hasnt managed to create a brand. This could be partly because it got a permanent home in Goa only recently. Cannes, Berlin and Venice are over 50 years old and have been promoted with a vengeance ever since, he says.

Industry insiders say Cannes, Berlin and Venice festivals were initially started to promote their respective cities as tourist destinations. The French, German and Italian governments and the local city governments gave them full support, eventually leading to them become the top three festival destinations in the world.

Do you know the budget of Cannes festival is around R140 crore points out Narayanan, Berlin too has a budget of over R120 crore. Moreover, their directors have long stints, a decade and more, thus enabling them to eat, live and be the festival. Compared to that, IFFI at Goa last December, its 42nd edition, had a budget of R10 crore, and directors change every year or every two years.

The Kolkata and Kerala festivals have made a name for themselves, and now Mumbai and Jaipur too, but not even one has become the showcase festival for India.

There are two reasons for a film or filmmaker to participate in a festival global publicity and a great film market, says Narayanan, adding, The Cannes festival gives unprecedented publicity to the films it showcases. Unless we can guarantee that and also bring in good business for films, we wont be of value to the festival map.

Even newer festivals than IFFI, like the Shanghai film festival, only in its 15th year, is managing to do things much better, say insiders. Three UTV films Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu produced by UTV and Dharma Productions, Dhobi Ghat produced by Aamir Khan Productions, and Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told produced by UTV and Shekhar Kapur have been selected to be screened at the Shanghai festival, to be held from June 16-24.

China is a booming market for movies and is growing at a scorching pace, says Amrita Pandey, executive director, syndication, international distribution & Disney media distribution, Studios, Disney UTV. There is an increasing interest for Indian content in many Asian markets like China, South Korea and Taiwan. The Shanghai International Film Festival is a perfect platform to showcase our movies and to get an opportunity for three movies is a rare honour, she adds.

Lets hope the Ladakh film fest manages to make a difference.