Goa has a new halo. At an International Film Festival of India of India party last night, one of the organizers took the microphone and asked the guests what “Goa” stood for. Of course nobody had a clue. It stands for “God’s Own Abode”, he answered himself. There was thunderous applause. So, some of the guests quipped, Kerala has competition. “God’s Own Country” has “God’s Own Abode” to reckon with.
Maybe, but the Festival, now on here, hardly seems to be God’s Own. With a whopping budget of Rs 7.35 crores, the conveniences are scandalously inadequate. Here is one example. Two nights ago a little past midnight, renowned Polish director Jan Jakub Kolski, whose excellent cinema is part of the Festival’s much publicised retrospective, found himself stranded without any transport after one of his own screenings. Movie director and head of the L.V. Prasad Film and TV Academy in Chennai, who happened to be with Kolski, tells me that they had to literally beg passing vehicles for a lift to their hotel, Cida de Goa, located several miles away.
When confronted with this issue, the Festival administration said that hospitality and transport were the responsibility of the State Government’s Entertainment Society of Goa. But who is going to understand this? Not Kolski. Not anybody else from France or Germany or England or just about anywhere else.
It is sad that the most important guests of the Festival are abandoned once they land in Goa, and appear to be facing the most trying times. I wonder whether these men will even vaguely feel that they are in God’s Own Abode!
The problem for such glitches is apparently the presence of too many organisations. The Directorate of Film Festivals, which conducts the 11-day annual cinema event, is reportedly at loggerheads with the Entertainment Society, which controls hospitality and transport. Both are a sham this year. To begin with, there are several Festival hotels this time, compared to just one in the past.
Invited guests tell me that on arriving at the airport, nobody around had a clue about the hotel they were supposed to be booked in. Some were sent to the wrong destinations, and they spent a good part of the day hotel hopping. What a welcome, indeed.
The transport for invited guests and others this year is woefully inadequate. And with screenings and functions stretching late into the night, it is a nightmare to find transport back to one’s hotel. What is worse, there really is no public transport system worth the name here. Even autorickshaws are scarce.
(I have just come back from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, where shuttle buses operated between the hotels and the screening venues every five minutes, and they ran till 2 in the morning. Now, IFFI cannot hide under the excuse that it does not have enough money. It has, and more than enough.)
At another level, the National Film Development Corporation of India, which organises a four-day movie market, believes in a kind of exclusivity that is intimidating. The Corporation’s impressive list of invitees, including celebrated Turkish helmer Fatih Akin, renowned critic Derek Malcolm, Venice Festival Director Marco Mueller and Cannes Festival Deputy General Delegate Christian Jeune among others are treated as “exclusives”. The much-needed interaction between them and the main Festival is not really encouraged. Akin’s master class was not officially open to the Festival delegates or guests, and was held at Hotel Marriott, the market venue that is away from the main Festival complex. Malti Sahai, a former IFFI Director, said it was such a pity that someone like Akin could not be seen at the Festival complex interacting with the guests and others. “A lot of people would have liked to have met him and even attended his class”, she added.
Obviously, a healthier coordination, cooperation and, above all, camaraderie, is essential if the Festival is to make an impact at all. More, so if Goa is to remain the permanent Festival venue. The whispering campaign that began a couple of years ago to take the Festival back to Delhi and its huge Siri Fort complex has grown louder this year. It is almost a scream now.
Ultimately, it is important that the Festival has one boss. The buck would stop moving then.