Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Good For You, Vidya Balan!
By Uma da Cunha

Not long ago, a leading Australian government delegation visited Mumbai, led by the Hon. Louise Asher, the State of Victoria’s Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business, Minister for Tourism and Major Events. The delegation was in Mumbai to speak of Melbourne’s pride in hosting the annual Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM). Now in its third year, this festival exclusively of Indian films will be held May 1 to 11, 2014. Festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange announced that from 2014, the festival will bestow awards in key categories.
Presiding in every way over the event here was the irrepressible Vidya Balan.

She has done so from the start of IFFM, which is when she accepted to be its Brand Ambassador. She is perhaps the only major Indian star to lend her name and presence so wholeheartedly to a film festival held abroad and that too, one exclusively of Indian films. She has helped the festival, its organisers and sponsors surge forward and gain a wider mainstream audience beyond local Asians.

The hopefuls attempting to organize Indian film festivals in countries abroad face a major uphill task. With national and Hollywood cinema dominating, they have to struggle to find space, recognition and funding to screen little-known Indian films. Some fifteen years ago, the stray Indian film festival that appeared on foreign screens was patronized mostly by local Asians and ignored by the larger cinema going fraternity. Even Indian filmmakers saw them as a ghetto activity and turned squarely to the international film scene to see possibilities of furthering their latest film.

The founders of the Indian film festival abroad are an enterprising, even an inspiring lot. The indefatigable Aroon Shivdasani, founder-director of the Indo-American Arts Council, has consistently brought Indian art, music and theatre to New York city. In 2001, she started her own Indian film festival. Today, it is called the Indian Film festival of New York, has a huge backing and a loyal, appreciative audience.

Over on the West coast, Greek-American Christina Marouda started her Indian Film festival of Los Angeles two years later, in 2003, now held every April. In October 2001, Italian Selvaggia Velo founded her River to River Indian Film Festival (the title connects the River Ganga and the River Arno). In June 2003, Stuttgart in Germany started its Indian Film Festival with the support of one benefactor, Mr Andreas Lapp, Honorary Consul of the Republic of India for Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Fast forward to today and one cannot count the number of Indian film festivals that have sprouted in major cities and countries. Cary Sawhney has established his London Indian Film Festival in a matter of just four eventful years. In the Netherlands, Ricardo Burgzorg launched the Indian Film Festival of The Hague, held annually in early October. Paris and Houston are cities that have started Indian film festivals of their own. There are many more dotting the world map.These are festivals that present films only from India by a band of devotees who overcame major hurdles to enable Indian cinema to reach their own city and local audiences.

Many Indian film festivals abroad have assiduously promoted filmmakers before they became the leading names they are today. IFFLA was the melting pot where rudderless but idealistic filmmakers congregated and were speeded on their way by the likes of Quentin Tarrantino. Examples are Anurag Kashyap, Nishikant Kamat and Umesh Kulkarni. Many of them were so energized by IFFLA that they proceeded to attend the festival on their own and without a film. These festivals now open doors for Indian filmmakers to meet established market professionals and learn how to negotiate international visibility and sales. The Indian film festival abroad is now noticed and written about in publications such as Variety and the New York Times. These gains in essence is what Indian film festivals held abroad stand for.

Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on
 January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column 

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