The city opened its doors to the first Independent Film Festival that was held in Chennai on Sunday. Initiated by Tamizh Studios and spearheaded by its founder Arun, the event saw the participation of several film enthusiasts, aspiring filmmakers and students from the city.
The one-day festival was held at Prasad Lab Preview Theatre, Saligramam and RKV Studios in Vadapalani.
With a well-planned line-up of films and panel discussions, Arun says that the curation this year was done by him.
“Next year we plan to appoint a festival director and other members to make it a bigger event,” he adds.
The event saw the participation of several prominent independent filmmakers like Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, ace Sri Lankan director Prasanna Vithanake, Amshan Kumar, Leena Manimekalai, Ananya Kasaravalli, Nithilan and many others who also had their films screened at the festival.
In addition to film screenings, Arun had also organised for panel discussions and workshops.
Sessions on how to watch films, working of the censor board, the market for independent cinema were also mediated. While it is common for film festivals to just have screenings, it was indeed a refreshing change for filmmakers and film enthusiasts alike to witness well-planned sessions.
Director Sanal Kumar Saisdharan says, “Film festivals are usually star-driven and in the present political climate it is very interesting to take part in such a unique festival. There was a huge participation from film students which has to be encouraged.”
Filmmaker Leena Manimakalai shares her excitement for this festival for having bridged meaningful cinema, its creators and the deserving audience. “I see it as a great platform for free expression and it has immense potential to grow as an iconic festival nationally. When the country is plagued by censorship and mobocracy, festival spaces like this are the only hope we have. It is a great feeling in fact to have a space like this so charged up with free expression in my own city.”
Speaking about the decision to include such discussions and workshops, Arun says, “It is very important for aspiring youngsters to also discuss and learn more from experienced filmmakers. This film festival was intended to be a platform that could provide that."
Tamizh studios that was founded ten years ago by Arun has been an important part of film movements in the city.
Their Pure Cinema Bookshop in Vadapalani is the country’s first such shop claims Arun.
“We also have a thematic monthly magazine called Padachurul and a publishing house called Pesamozhi," he says.
What nudged Arun to officiate this independent film festival?
“Tamil Nadu mainstream films have a specific structure of four songs, five fights etc. Independent films challenge such constructs. We wanted to encourage such ventures,” he explains.
“It is also difficult for an independent filmmaker in the country to screen his/her films in theatres, given the number of middlemen they’ll have to tackle. This festival is a way to help them achieve this,” he adds.
Next year, the team plans to organise an event called ‘Pitching’ where aspiring and upcoming filmmakers can gain a window of opportunity with some of the most prominent producers and distributors in the country.
“The participants get to sell their story or idea to a prospective producer. This way, a lot of dreams can be realised. However, the filmmaker will remain the main producer of the film. Whoever supports them financially will become the co-producer,” he says.
The team will not just stop with screening films says Arun.
“We will also send the independent films that we receive to other International film festivals for selections. It will prove to be a great opportunity for talents from here," he notes.