Those who wish to attend the screenings will have to reserve their seats in advance and follow COVID-19 protocol.

A red board showing antigen testing kept outside an open area and people sitting inside and walking out
Flix IFFK Monday, February 08, 2021 - 15:00

Unlike other years, the passes for the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) are not sold out yet. There are two more days left for the IFFK, and five movie theatre complexes and a large open-air auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram are ready to screen 80 films. The festival is set to start on a Wednesday this year -- February 10 -- as opposed to a Friday in the past years, with a number of rules, restrictions and hope. It is the 25th edition of a festival which has become prestigious to Kerala over the years. Every other year, in the second week of December, crowds formed at festival venues and roamed the streets freely, laymen touched shoulders with filmmakers from across the world, movies were followed by many discussions, and there was a sense of liberty from everything else for seven to eight days. This year, however, it will not be the same.

For starters, the festival, which usually happens in December, got pushed to February. And the number of people allowed reduced drastically.

“Last time, we had more than 14,000 delegates for the festival. We cannot have such a crowd during a pandemic. That’s the reason we are conducting it in four zones, three other regions – Ernakulam, Thalassery, Palakkad -- mirroring the festival that begins in Thiruvananthapuram,” says Ajoy C, secretary of the Kerala State Chalachithra Academy, which conducts the festival.


All the restrictions that come along with COVID-19 protocol will be applicable, including wearing of masks and physical distancing. Theatres will allow only 50% occupancy, like for regular movie releases. Only those who bring a certificate proving they have tested negative for the coronavirus within 48 hours of the opening day would be allowed in. “This includes everyone from delegates to volunteers, officials and duty staff. The academy, in association with the state’s health department, will have antigen testing centres at the main centre of every region. In Thiruvananthapuram this will be at the Tagore Theatre, where testing will begin on Monday. The tests will be free of charge,” adds Ajoy.



There will be five screenings each day and the theatres will be sanitised between each of them. The festival has been shortened to five days at each of the zones. “This is actually a challenge for the academy. Normally, we take months to prepare for the yearly festival in Thiruvananthapuram. Now, as soon as the Thiruvananthapuram fest is over, we need to take everything and be ready in Ernakulam two days later. We get only a day’s gap to go from Ernakulam to Thalassery and another day’s gap from Thalassery to Palakkad.”

This time, there shall be no waiting in queues outside the theatres to watch films. Seating will be arranged solely through reservation. Those who wish to attend the festival will need to book their seats a day in advance, online or through the IFFK app.

Festival experience

All of these restrictions will undoubtedly change the nature of the festival one is used to. John A, who has been attending the IFFK for the past eight years, says it would not give a ‘complete film festival experience’. “What’s as important as watching films at the festival is meeting fellow film buffs and friends from across the state, and the film community outside. You get a chance to interact with new and old filmmakers. But the COVID-19 situation will not allow that. Still, considering the circumstances, it is great that the festival is at least happening!” he says.

From IFFK - 2019

The inaugural ceremony will take place at Nishagandhi Auditorium on Wednesday evening, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan doing the honours. Minister for Culture AK Balan will preside and Speaker Sreeramakrishnan will be the chief guest. The Life Time Achievement Award for renowned French-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, a pioneer of the French new wave film movement, will be received on his behalf by Kerala’s veteran filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

“He can’t come because of COVID-19. No international filmmakers are coming this year. But directors of Indian films and Malayalam films especially will be coming,” Ajoy adds.

A recorded conversation between Godard and film critic CS Venkiteswaran will be played on one of the festival days.

Films screened

The inaugural day will, as per tradition, have an opening day film – Quo Vadis Aida? – by Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic, a war drama film based on her experiences of war.

The 80 films that will be screened are divided into the usual categories, 14 of them falling into international competition. Two of these are in Malayalam – Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Churuli and Jayaraj’s Hasyam. Both the films will have their world premiere at the fest, as will Birdwatching / Observer Las Evas, a film from Mexico, which is the story of one woman deciding to film her fall into the oblivion after she learns she has Alzheimer’s disease.

Still from Birdwatching

There are 22 films in the World Cinema category from many countries, seven in Indian Cinema Now and 12 in Malayalam Cinema Today. Malayalam filmmaker Don Palathara’s two films have been selected for the fest in two categories – Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam / Joyful Mystery and 1956, Central Travancore.

1956, Central Travancore is a period film that revolves around the art form of Koodiyettam and Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam is a relationship drama. The latter is being screened at the fest on Valentine’s Day, perhaps coincidentally,” says Don.

Santhoshathinte was shot amid the pandemic, in September 2020, and shot entirely in a car.

Other categories of films include Kaleidoscope, Godard’s films, a retrospective for South Korean director Lee Chang-dong and a homage to nine personalities who passed away.

The IFFK will go to Ernakulam on February 17, Thalassery on February 23 and conclude in Palakkad on March 5.

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