Two days ago, the Kerala Chalachitra Academy put out a list of Indian films that would be screened at the International Film Festival of Kerala. Two of them are in the competition category – Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon (Taking the Horse to eat Jalebis) and Widow of Silence.
A few days before that, the academy announced the Malayalam films in its lineup, including the two that will be a part of the competition. This is not the pace IFFK is used to. It is the festival’s 23rd edition this year, and there has never been a break. This year would have been the first without an IFFK ever since the festival began in 1996, if an earlier government decision was followed.
In August, a government order said that the festival would have to be cancelled. The floods that had infamously wrecked most of Kerala required the funds budgeted for the fest to be taken away. There was just not enough to mend the state, there still isn’t. But the prestigious fest of Kerala is slowly getting back on its feet. It will now be held from December 7 to December 13.
Towards the end of September, the government allowed the decision to avoid all celebrations to change. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had come back from the US after getting treatment for an illness he has not yet talked about. Serious lovers of cinema waited for him to say yes to the film festival they have come to love for many reasons.
The CM said yes, but it would not be funded by the state government. So, organisers of the festival and film lovers began finding other ways to make it happen. The delegate fee has been raised from Rs 500 to Rs 2000. Delegate tickets are usually sold out within hours of opening up online. Hopefully, that will happen again this year. “We are hoping to make Rs 2 crore of the total expected cost of Rs 3 crore out of the delegate fees. And hopefully get sponsorship to cover the rest of the cost,” says Shaji H, Deputy Director of Festivals at the academy.
By September end, however, precious time had been lost. In normal circumstances, the festival movies would have been fixed and finalised by now. September-October is the peak time when the Chalachitra Academy, that runs the show, gets busy with the curating, talking to filmmakers and curators, the arranging of it all. “People will see only the rush in December when the festival happens and everyone flocks to the theatres in Thiruvananthapuram,” Shaji says. But the behind-the-scene rush begins much earlier.
“Still, there will not be a shortage of films screened. There will not be a compromise on film content. Only one day of the usual eight-day fest has been cut short,” Shaji says. This will not be a significant change, as fewer films are screened on the eighth day, before the big closing ceremony.
But, there have been other cuts. There is no lifetime achievement award, no contemporary master package, no ‘country in focus’. The festival that caters to movies from Asia, Africa and Latin America will continue to bring films from these countries, but there would be fewer guests flying in.
There would still be 14 theatres screening films, including the newly renovated Kripa Cinemas. But external “decorations” such as the panthal built for open forums would be missing.
The other categories of films, including world cinema, are only being finalised but there would definitely be a Bergman (Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman) package, it being his centenary this year, Shaji says. From Kerala, the works of director Lenin Rajendran would be a package.