The 13th edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films will run from February 3 to 9. Divided into several sections, the event's most prized ones will be the international and national competition.
Organised once in two years by the Film Division, the festival will screen 37 movies in international competition and 35 in the national. All of them will be competing for cash awards and Golden Conches up to a total of Rs. 55 lakh.
Several Indian works will vie in the international section along with foreign entries. But surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of these are from India, in languages such as English, Hindi, Odia, Bengali, Malayalam and Tamil. A reason for this may be that the festival has failed to evoke enough interest across the seas.
Among the national competitors, movies in Telugu, Kashmiri, Mizo, Marathi, Urdu and other languages have been included.
There will be a five-member jury for each of the categories. While India's Anand Patwardhan will head the international jury, Mark Achbar from Canada will lead the national team.
However, the most significant aspect of this festival is that competition films will be shown in seven Indian cities (Chennai, Bangalore, New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, etc), the screenings coinciding with those in Mumbai. This is a fascinating development and is a major step towards popularising the documentary genre, otherwise utterly neglected in India.
If there are no dedicated cinemas for documentaries and shorts, there is also very little audience interest in them. One reason could be that documentaries in India were, for years, largely made by the government-controlled Film Division, and these were singularly boring.
Audience members watch an event during MIFF's last edition.
Admittedly, things have changed a wee bit now, with private players and even Doordarshan in the fray. Some excellent documentaries have been sponsored by Doordarshan, including those by Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Girish Kasaravalli, whose work on UR Ananthamurthy is all set for a run.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will be part of a panel on Film Studies at the Mumbai International Film Festival)