India’s official international film festival seems to have finally broken out of its jinx of controversies, and earned a global status. With a long list of Hollywood biggies coming for the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa from November 20-30, the event seems to have put its past behind.
The names on its guest list this year — Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, Private Benjamin star Goldie Hawn, Moulin Rouge heroine Nicole Kidman, actors Colin Farrell and Cate Blanchett, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi and Czech director Jiri Menzel.
“We want the festival to go global, that’s why we’ll have international celebs like Susan and Majid,” says the festival’s director Shankar Mohan. This proud lineup comes as a surprising change from what the festival has been known for in the past — stirring up storms and dud appearances. The inaugural ceremony of IFFI 2005 was mired in controversy after Amitabh Bachchan’s name as the chief guest was withdrawn at the last moment, purportedly because of the strained relations between the first family of Bollywood and the Nehru-Gandhi family.
The initial years also had Kerala and Bengal fighting to claim the fest from Goa on grounds that the state lacks an inherent film culture. Industry experts share a mixed view. “Undoubtedly, an event gets more attention when Hollywood celebs are involved,” says filmmaker Pritish Nandy. Industry expert Taran Adarsh says, “We should have our own big stars too, though there’s no harm in having Hollywood celebs.” Trade analyst Amod Mehra adds, “Our own actors only attend events that give them mileage or money. So well, international celebs can pitch for to our cinema!”