In this interview, the MD of NFDC and Festival Director of IFFI Goa, Prithul Kumar, reveals the highlights of the festival like IFFI Cine Mela’s vision, top Indian cinema showcases, Film Bazaar updates, and NFDC’s strategies for global filmmakers.
The 54th edition of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) will be held in Goa this year from November 20 to 28. Over the years, IFFI has lived up to the promise of bringing the best of world cinema, regional Indian cinema, Gala Premieres, OTT shows, master classes, in-conversation sessions, Film Bazaar, Cine Mela, etc. to Goa. Helmed by Prithul Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the festival is expected to be bigger and better than ever this year.
In this interview, Prithul Kumar, MD, National Film Development Corporation of India (NDFC) and Festival Director of IFFI Goa, talks about the major attractions this year, the vision behind hosting the IFFI Cine Mela for non-delegates, his commitment to showcasing the best of Indian cinema at the festival, changes at Film Bazaar this year, and the measures by NFDC to attract international filmmakers to come and shoot films in India, among other things.
Q. What can we expect from IFFI this year? What will be the major attractions this year?
A. The focus of the festival still remains at the very core which is the film content that we display such as the 190 odd international films we have this year, the best of Indian cinema showcased as part of the Indian Panorama and the restored classics section, etc. So the emphasis has always been to select and showcase the best films and that still remains the topmost priority. Apart from that we have other added sections like Gala Premieres which was started last year. So this year also we are having about 11 Gala premieres at the festival, where big star cast and big celebrities from all parts of India and internationally will be coming. Then we have the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award. This year it will be awarded to the legendary actor and producer Michael Douglas. He will be receiving it physically and will be present at the festival from November 26 to 28 along with his wife, the renowned Hollywood actress Catherine Zeta Jones. Apart from this, IFFI 2023 will have the Creative Minds of Tomorrow filmmaking competition, which has been strengthened furthermore by adding master classes to it. The filmmaking competition will be followed by recruitments. So creative minds will not just be exploring the market and the IFFI and also participating in the competition but also will get a chance to get recruited by some of the best companies in India. And about 20 companies have already confirmed that they will take part in the talent hunt, which will take place after the competition.
Q. Tell us about the vision behind hosting the IFFI Cine Mela at this year’s IFFI? What can we expect from the event?
A. Goa is a very important tourist destination not just for India but internationally as well. A lot of tourists are floating around Goa and what happens is because the capacity of the film festival is limited, we are generally required to close down the registrations at the beginning of the festival itself because it is always already overbooked. So we wanted some engagement wherein the tourists and the local population can also come and experience something related to cinema, art and culture. So this year a Cine Mela has also been organized which will be just in front of the IFFI venue. It will be a major showcase of cinema wherein we will be exhibiting Indian films; there will be showcasing of our National Museum of Indian Cinema, and of our archival efforts, among other things. Khadi India is putting up a stall. There are stalls with One District One products. Apart from this craft and handicraft stalls which also will be there. So this is an engagement which we wanted that people should also have. This is for non-delegates and it doesn’t require any registration. Anybody can walk in and enjoy all of this along with food and beverages.
Q. While IFFI is known for bringing the best of world cinema to Goa, the Indian Panorama segment has a strong reputation of showcasing the best of Indian cinema. As the Festival Director, how important are the Indian Panorama selections?
A. So among festivals which are being organized on a country basis, IFFI is one of the World’s 14 biggest and most prestigious ‘International Competition Feature Film Festivals’ that is accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers’ Association (FIAPF), the international body governing film festivals globally. International Film Festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and Venice are such other reputed festivals, accredited by FIAPF under this category. The IFFI showcases international content so that the people can come and experience the international content there. But, the cultural content from India as showcased by the Indian Panorama becomes very important because it projects the ethos of Indian cinema to the world, to the delegates who are internationally attending this festival. So, yes, it is very important for us.
Q. What’s the vision behind hiring Jitin Hingorani, an Indian-American curator, programmer and producer, as the head of programming for Film Bazaar?
A. The basic idea is to expand the Film Bazaar. Jitin has got a very good experience of organizing film festivals internationally. Therefore, we wanted to take him and so it was really good that he could come onboard. We wanted to expand the Film Bazaar as the filmmaking is changing from traditional to more technical and more VFX dependent and so all of this has been incorporated this year.
Q. Could you elaborate upon the changes at Film Bazaar this year?
A. If you see every traditional vertical which we have in the Bazaar, we have expanded. We have included documentaries as a part of co-production and also work in progress because we believe that documentaries are doing really well and actually these stories are getting told. Also, this year marks an important year with an Indian documentary winning at the Oscars. Apart from that we have also included a new VFX pavilion which will showcase how VFX and the upcoming technologies can be utilized for new age filmmaking. And then the knowledge series, which traditionally used to talk about subjects and this year it has been made more relevant and more topical aimed at the enhancement of knowledge from the filmmaker’s perspective. Also, there is one Book to Box-office section which we started in a small way last year. We have expanded that in a big way in the sense we have again stuck to the ethos of Film Bazaar that will curate the best content for you. So the Film Bazaar attendees will see specifically 30 books which have been selected from many books which can be converted into screenplays and subsequently into films. And out of that six will have major pitching sessions which have been selected and curated and some storyboarding has also been built onto it. This year we are also starting a Film Bazaar app which will be a major thing in the sense that people will be able to see catalogue on their mobile phones even prior to coming here and they would be able to mark their preferences of which films they want to see in the viewing room They will be able to give their feedback on every activity which they are participating through the help of the app. When you see the content this time at the Film Bazaar, you will definitely feel the difference.
Q. As the MD of NFDC, what measures have to be taken to attract international filmmakers to come and shoot films in India?
A. One of the most important steps which we have taken is to revamp the entire Film Facilitation Office (FFO) portal. The new vendor has only recently started working and the mandate is not just to let people see the resources in India, the locations in India, or just apply for it, we are trying to integrate everything, all the promotions, the incentives, and the permissions, into the portal. So that everything can be done online. Of course, the central government portion or the ministries portion was already online but the complete process was not online. So now all the processes will be turned online and in fact the state governments which were not part of it will also be on board to create a single window for everything. While the timeline for this to become fully operational is 1.5 years, I am sure that few of the important things like incentive application and its processing will become completely online by the end of six months. So this will be a major change and we are also hoping that we want to revise the incentives which were announced last year. They are going to be enhanced in many ways.