The Mumbai International Film Festival throws the spotlight on home-grown and international documentaries, short and animated films. Established in 1990, a time when Mumbai was still getting used to the idea of a film festival, the event is organised with the help and collaboration of the Government of Maharashtra and the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association. So far, there have been 12 editions of the festival, with the National Centre for the Performing Arts at Mumbai as its permanent venue.
MIFF is a rare platform for documentary filmmakers to exchange ideas. Plus, the works showcased come from 50 different countries. The winners of the competing categories receive cash prizes, in addition to awards. Since the number of participants increase with each passing year, in 1998, MIFF introduced a competition section that has been dedicated to Indian films – the national competition category. Apart from screening films, MIFF also conducts master classes, workshops, open forums and seminars over the six days.
NCPA, Sir Dorabji Tata Road, near Hilton Towers, Nariman Point (022- 23515308; miff.in).
This year’s highlights:
The upcoming edition will feature 72 competing films, spread across two categories – international and national. The former includes Indian as well as foreign films that are further divided into the following categories: short fiction, animation, and short and long-length documentaries.
When it comes to the Indian documentaries, we recommend you set your sights on two particularly gripping films. First, Kamal Swaroop’s Rangbhoomi, which has the filmmaker trace a phase in the life of Indian cinema legend Dadasaheb Phalke. It focuses on the time Phalke dabbled in theatre in Varanasi after being disillusioned with cinema. He then wrote and produced Rangbhoomi, a semi-autobiographical play. Then there’s Dylan Mohan Gray’s Fire in the Blood that takes a scathing look at Western pharmaceutical companies that withheld the distribution of certain drugs in Africa, Asia and other regions leading to a rise in HIV/Aids in the regions. Narrated by the acclaimed American actor William Hurt, the film holds the record for the longest-running non-fiction film in Indian theatres, when it completed a five week-run in Mumbai in November last year.
Giving them stiff competition will be the international documentary, Liv and Ingmar, an English-Swedish film directed by Dheeraj Akolkar. As the title suggests, it explores the long and tumultuous romantic relationship between master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and his muse and collaborator for 12 films, actress Liv Ullmann. The film will be a treat for Bergman fans and other than details about the films the two worked on together – excerpts from which have been included – there is also an interview with Ullmann, Now 75, she recalls and relives the moments she shared with the late filmmaker. “In addition to these three films, we are expecting the documentaries The Act of Killing, Algorithm, Salma, Gulabi Gang and the short fiction film Outpost to be received well,” said Anil Kumar, festival co-ordinator. The Act of Killing has received worldwide acclaim, drawing huge crowds at the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF, not to be confused with MIFF), when it played there in October last year. Gulabi Gang, a documentary directed by Nishtha Jain, looks at the work of Sampat Pal Devi and her gang of social workers who fight for the rights of women in the hinterland.
Among those competing for the National Film prize are documentaries Celluloid Man, Shepherds of Paradise, Chronicles of a Temple Painter and Kandhamal Unresolved (the full list of international and national competition films is up on the MIFF website). Kumar added that there are films playing out-of-competition in other sections. “One of them is MIFF Prism, where the selection panel recommends a list of films that could not be considered for competition for various reasons, but which deserve to play at the festival,” he said. Apart from these, there are various “packages”, like the one on animation, that focus on any one aspect of cinema. MIFF pays homage to filmmakers every year, and this year a Peter Wintonick retrospective will be held, showing films made by the acclaimed documentary filmmaker, among them Pilgrimage and Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. Lastly, there will be panel discussions and workshops for the aspiring documentary, animation and short filmmaker.
We suggest a break between films. Walk along the promenade overlooking the sea and head to Colaba – a short taxi ride away – and choose from a variety of restaurants and bars where you can discuss the films you’ll be watching with friends.
Distance from Delhi
How long it takes to get there
About 20 hours by car.
About 16 hours by the Mumbai Rajdhani (check tickets at irctc.com).
A little over two hours by air (check tickets at makemytrip.com).
By Aniruddha Guha on January 17 2014 11.48am
Photos by Tejal Pandey