In the post-COVID-19 world, film festivals are happening online. Yet, the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, the main organisers of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), has chosen to organise one physically, in a decentralised manner, becoming the first film festival in the country to spread its wings out of its home city.
In the elaborate arrangements for COVID-19 testing of every single delegate and in ensuring safety protocols in the cinema halls, the resolve to make the festival a success even in trying circumstances is quite evident.
For the fourth consecutive year, the festival is being organised in such circumstances. The previous three editions were organised in the aftermath of Cyclone Ockhi and two major floods.
Three more phases
The crowd will be much smaller, around 2,000, bringing back memories of some of the earlier editions of the festival, compared to the around 10,000 usually. It will instead be distributed across the three more phases of the festival in Kochi, Thalassery, and Palakkad.
Consequently, the coming together of the festival crowd from across the State, one of the elements that make the IFFK special, will be missing this year.
The idea of decentralising the festival did lead to some initial controversies, but the logic did sink in with the majority a few days later. For the many in towns far away from the capital, and unable to make the trip for the annual festival, the IFFK coming closer home at least for a year could be something to look forward to.
Fare on offer
Just like the number of the audience, the number of films has come down to 80 this year from the usual 180. But, delegates are still somewhat spoilt for choice from the fare on offer, from the old masters, including Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai’s Laila in Haifa and Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky’s Dear Comrades, to Uberto Pasolini’s Nowhere Special and French ‘new’ wave filmmaker Francois Ozon’s Summer of 85.
Among the Indian films to look forward to are Tamil film Kuthiraivaal directed by Manoj Jahson and Shyam Sunder, Sajin Baabu’s multi-award winning Biriyani and Don Palathara’s 1956, Central Travancore. Mohit Priyadarshi’s Kosa and Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Churuli vie for honours in a strong International Competition section.
One of the highlights of this festival will be the virtual presence of French new wave pioneer Jean Luc Godard, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award at the IFFK this year. Six of his films are also being screened.
Also on offer is a retrospective of South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong, known most for the 2018 psychological thriller Burning. The festival will be paying homage to nine film personalities who passed away this year, with screenings of their works.
The festival, which usually happens amid the December chill, now arrives a little late, when the onset of summer is in the air. But, despite the wait, the enthusiasm among the delegates remains high.