At a time when mass gatherings remain restricted, a digital film festival could be the way forward for the film world
By Shriya Roy
Film festivals have been dealt a huge blow because of the pandemic, with many having being cancelled or postponed. But a recent film festival provided a spark of hope in this dismal scenario. The first edition of the Indus Valley International Film Festival (IVIFF) was held completely digitally from August 1-9.
Organised by South Asia Forum for Art & Creative Heritage, it presented a vibrant mix of film screenings, workshops and masterclasses with filmmakers, music concerts and an award ceremony. The IVIFF, pegged as south Asia’s first borderless digital film festival, presented an impressive line-up of films from various south Asian countries, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The best part? The audience got an opportunity to not just watch films, but also interact with directors and the star cast at the same time. “We have a cultural and historical legacy, and cinema is the modern medium of expressing our artistic traditions. South Asian art, music and folk traditions are interconnected, and they get evolved further through communicating with each other,” said Harsh Narayan, founder and creative director of the fest.
Talking about the benefits of having an online fest, he said, “With a digital festival, the biggest plus point is that anyone can register from anywhere in the world as compared to a physical festival where the audience is usually limited to the city it is taking place in.”
This is something that filmmaker Brahmanand Singh, whose film Jhalki was screened at the festival, agreed with. The best thing about a digital film festival is that anyone can come and attend, he said. “Digital film festivals go a long way in cutting costs for organisers. For me personally, I can be part of a panel and do my own work as well on the side,” said Singh, adding, “The digital arena has given the world a new alternative to fall back on. It’s a paradigm shift in how content is consumed.”
But a digital fest is not without its challenges. “One of the major challenges was to get film rights from filmmakers as there is a high risk of piracy in an online fest as opposed to physical film festivals. To mitigate this problem, we set up a technical team which created our very own firewall, eliminating the risk of piracy,” Narayan said, adding, “We got an overwhelming response from the audience and filmmakers not just in India, but across nations.”
Going ahead, online festivals will be the norm, believes Sri Lankan filmmaker Nilendra Deshapriya. “The film community has been hit hard by the pandemic, so the digital platform offers a helping hand. It is true that the experience of a physical film festival, the person-to-person interaction and the undivided attention is missing, but the digital platform offers a great opportunity, considering how things are right now,” Deshapriya said.
The inaugural speech at the IVIFFF was given by filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj and his film Pataakha opened the festival. Some other films screened included Dying Candle, an award-winning film from Nepal, Nolok and Maya the Lost Mother from Bangladesh, Deshapriya’s Thanha Rathi Ranga, Moor by Jami from Pakistan, among others.
Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) has announced that its 2020 awards will take place virtually on the META website on August 30. In its 15th edition this year, META rewards and recognises the best theatrical productions and performances of the year along with their makers. The META 2020 Festival, which was earlier scheduled to be held in Delhi in March, was postponed due to Covid-19. Now, the three-week-long virtual celebrations will include a Theatre Critics Conference on August 10, the launch of the first-ever published edition of the ‘META Best Original Script’ on August 18 and a tribute to META 2020 Lifetime Achievement awardee Barry John on August 23, culminating in a virtual red carpet and awards ceremony on August 30.