A festive mood has enveloped Goa ahead of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which kicks off Thursday with the screening of Volver, a feted Spanish film by director Pedro Almodóvar that was among entries competing for the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
IFFI 2006 is divided into the competition (feature films by directors from Asia, Africa and Latin America), cinema of the world, retrospectives, tributes, focus, Indian panorama and mainstream Indian cinema sections.
There will also be a film bazaar, an initiative of recent years to promote and sell Indian films.
On Tuesday, pre-festival screenings got underway "for press and delegates only" at the Inox, a four-screen multiplex set up two years ago just on the eve of this state becoming the host of IFFI, which relocated here from New Delhi.
For those who manage to get in, there will be four 'pre-festival' screenings each on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Accommodating long queues has been a challenge for Goa, once criticised as not having a sufficient film culture. The state has been unable so far to incorporate its existing mostly-run-down cine theatres as part of the festival.
Showing on Tuesday are Australian film The Tracker (2002) by Rolf de Heer, a drama set in 1922 in outback Australia in which a racist White colonial policeman (Gary Sweet) uses the tracking ability of aboriginal tracker (David Gulpilil) to find the murderer of a white women.
Also showing will be A Thousand Kisses (by Willem Van de Sande Bakhuyzen, The Netherlands), Not Here To Be Loved (France, Stephane Brize) and Fireworks (Asghar Farhadi, Iran).
Iranian cinema (or Persian cinema), which has won several international awards, is considered as one of the most renowned in the world. Critics sometimes rank Iran as the world's most important national cinema artistically, with a significance that compares to Italian neo-realism and similar movements in past decades.
On Wednesday, The Little Lieutenant (France, Xavier Beauvois), The Wandering Shadows (Colombia, Ciro Guerra), Love Talk (South Korea, Lee Yoon-Ki), and Jasminum (Poland, Jan Jakub Kolski) will be screened.
For the best film director, the Golden Peacock award will carry a cash prize of Rs.1 million.
The 'most promising director' gets a silver peacock and Rs.500,000. There is also a special jury award, of a silver peacock and cash prize of a similar amount for an individual's artistic contribution.
At Cannes, Volver, won two awards - best actress (shared by the six main actresses) and best screenplay. It was premiered in March at Puertollano, where the filming had taken place. It also received a standing ovation at Cannes.
Director Almodóvar has said of the story that "it is precisely about death... More than about death itself, the screenplay talks about the rich culture that surrounds death in the region of La Mancha, where I was born. It is about the way (not tragic at all) in which various female characters, of different generations, deal with this culture."
The film got rave reviews when it was released in Spain. Fotogramas, the country's top film magazine, gave it a five-star rating. By mid-June 2006, the film had grossed $12 million at the Spanish box office.
Meanwhile, steady streams of local film buffs are returning home disappointed with not getting passes, while the lucky few have managed to pick up theirs for the 37th IFFI.