HIFF this year is presenting ‘VROOOOM: Fast Track to the Future,’ with the aim of allowing viewers to explore works by filmmakers worldwide using virtual reality.
The 4th Habitat International Film Festival (HIFF) is currently underway at the India Habitat Centre. This year again, HIFF brings the best of world cinema to the India Habitat Centre with over 60 award-winning and critically acclaimed films from 20 countries. The country of focus this year is Australia. During the festival, cinephiles have the opportunity to experience some of the best of Australia’s recent film releases, which include stories of the Indigenous people, the vibrant multicultural society, and the journeys of some of the LGBTQI+ community members.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s recent bilateral meeting with his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, is set to usher in a new era of collaboration between the two countries. “The HIFF could not have come at a better time, as India is an important economic and cultural partner to Australia, and our governments have been working hard to bring our two film industries closer together. Recently, the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a landmark bilateral Audiovisual Co-production Agreement, further strengthening economic and cultural ties between our two nations,” reveals the representative from the Australian High Commission.
While there is a special package of 6 contemporary films from Australia, there is also a selection of short films from Poland. Also, in partnership with the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi, the HIFF this year is presenting ‘VROOOOM: Fast Track to the Future,’ with the aim of allowing viewers to explore works by the most innovative and interesting filmmakers worldwide using Virtual Reality to convey powerful stories. “These exciting projects show the true potential of immersive technologies and new media,” explains Ulrich Schrauth, initiator and creative director, Virtual Reality & Arts Festival, Hamburg (VRHAM). “We are heartened by the public’s enthusiastic reaction to the different formats and genres that are in this package. This partnership with the India Habitat Centre serves to only strengthen an already long and varied association,” avers Katharina Görig, Head of Cultural Programmes South Asia, Goethe-Institut.
The Habitat International Film Festival has returned to its pre-pandemic glory this year. “The HIFF is back in its full-fledged form this year, with an exciting line-up of top-notch new cinema from across the world that is bound to be a treat for all film enthusiasts. Australia is the focus country in this edition, and we also bring a cutting-edge VR section to the Festival for the first time. Aspiring filmmakers will not want to miss the unique opportunity provided by Kieślowski Film School Documentary Workshop. I am delighted at the overall package curated by our Programmes Team for HIFF 2023,” rejoices Sunit Tandon, Director, India Habitat Centre.
Italy has a critically acclaimed film on the festival lineup this year, titled ‘Nostalgia,’ starring the versatile Pierfrancesco Favino in the lead role. “We are happy to collaborate with the India Habitat Centre for the 4th Habitat International Film Festival. We look forward to watching the Italian film ‘Nostalgia’ by Mario Martone at the festival. The opening film ‘The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone’ is a great choice by the Australian High Commission. This particular film is crucial to increase awareness and bust myths about certain taboos in society,” opines Emanuela Mennella, Director, Italian Embassy Cultural Centre (Delhi).
The 4-day rigorous documentary film workshop aims to introduce participants to documentary dramaturgy with hands-on guidance by experienced faculty from the Kieślowski Film School. “HIFF contacted Kieslowski Film School asking for some film submissions last year. I think at that time the festival chose quite a lot of our films to screen, and when we were contacted this year, we submitted our films and also informed them that I would like to attend the festival in person. So that’s how it started,” reveals Dr. Anna Huth, Director of the Institute of Film and Theatre Arts at the University of Silesia in Poland, who is an assistant professor at the Kieślowski Film School.
She further adds, “Then HIFF contacted the Polish Institute in New Delhi, and I was subsequently contacted by Kajus Augustyniak from the Polish Institute. He invited us, and we thought that if we have to come, then it has to be something more than just the screening of our films. We all work at the Kieslowski Film School, and we all are in touch with the film students, and we do workshops. In most countries, film schools are paid, but in Poland, they are free. So it’s a public school, and anyone can attend. But we take only 5 students everywhere for the directing course. It’s a small batch size, but that’s the only way you can teach film.”
Grzegorz Paprzycki, an acclaimed new voice in contemporary Polish cinema and an alumnus of the Kieślowski Film School, is also one of the workshop trainers. “As part of the introduction, I will be screening my short documentary ‘My Country, So Beautiful’ for the participants. Among other films, I will also be showing them the short documentary titled ‘Mister Sunshine,’ which is from New Zealand. The idea is to introduce them to the format while taking different examples. As part of the final assignment, the participants in groups of two will have to make a 5-minute documentary without any dialogue,” explains Paprzycki.
The response to the workshop has been overwhelmingly positive. “The response and feedback from both the participants and the Polish team have been excellent. We have already begun the conversation on the next workshop and are looking at how to structure and schedule it,” reveals Vidyun Singh, Creative Head Programs, Habitat World, India Habitat Centre.
The Kieślowski Film School is regarded as one of the most liberal institutions of its time and holds immense repute in Europe for the promotion of interdisciplinary art and teaching. The School focuses on the practical aspects of filmmaking and employs active filmmakers, such as Krzysztof Zanussi, Adam Sikora, Tomasz Woźniczka, Piotr Domalewski, Jan P. Matuszyński, Aneta Hickinbotham, and many others. For the directing course, the course language is Polish. But, the film school also offers an online English-language MA course in Creative Management in New Media.
Some of the major films to be screened at the festival this year include ‘Elvis,’ ‘Rheingold,’ ‘Perfect Number,’ ‘The Survival of Kindness,’ ‘Nostalgia,’ ‘Hostile,’ ‘Alcarras,’ and ‘EO,’ among others. There is also a special package of documentary films sourced from The Human Rights Film Festival Berlin, presented by the Embassy of Germany, which includes ‘Aya,’ ‘A House Made of Splinters,’ ‘Pongo Calling,’ and ‘Stop Filming Us But Listen,’ among others.
The Human Rights Film Festival Berlin serves as a platform to address the most pressing issues of the 21st century, such as climate change or gender inequality, via the medium of film. “Since its establishment in 2018, the festival has gained enormous momentum; last year’s edition saw over 15,000 visitors and more than 40 films. We are pleased and thankful that 5 of these movies are being screened at the Habitat International Film Festival,” explains Johannes Hoeber, Cultural Counselor, Embassy of Germany.
HIFF 2023 also has a very interesting lineup of films from Israel this year, with films such as ‘Sand Flakes,’ and ‘The Artist’s Daughter,’ getting screened. “I am elated to have this prestigious platform of Habitat International Film Festival for showcasing the best of Israeli Cinema to the Indian audience who can witness glimpses of Israel’s realities. I am honoured and greatly appreciate the opportunity given to us,” rejoices Reuma Mantzur, Cultural Attaché, Embassy of Israel. Another highlight of the Habitat International Film Festival 2023 is MUBI Friday, which brings a special package of four films: ‘Crimes of the Future,’ ‘The Worst Person in the World,’ ‘Paris, 13th District,’ and ‘In the Mood for Love.’