Despite controversies, 18th eidition of the city film festival has been drawing good numbers.
Festivalgoers said that the inaugural ceremony may have upset many followers of serious cinema, but the selection of films has not. According to viewers who have been regular at the fest for several years, stress on contemporary world cinema makes the festival a worthy venue to go look in.
Soumitra Das, who has been attending the festival for more than a decade, said, “The inaugural ceremony was meant for viewers who fight for tickets of the likes of 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan'. But thankfully, the selection of films have been done keeping in mind the aesthetic, artistic and educational values of cinema.”
Festival regulars cite the example of 2012 productions by the likes of Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy), Istvan Szabo (Hungary), Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Darius Meherzui (Iran), Ken Loach (UK) and Takeshi Kitano (Japan) being screened at this year’s festival. Many also praised the bouquet of African cinema, which is the focus country in this year’s festival.
“The centenary tribute to Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni and retrospective of Greek filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis, too, are good packages,” Sudakshina Mallik, a film student, said.
According to film academician Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, who is also a member of the KIFF executive committee, the package of African cinema offers a unique opportunity to know the lives of people least talked about.
“We hardly get to watch African cinema. But the package here reveals a lot about life in these less talked about countries. Kolkata never had such an elaborate interaction with Indian cinema,” Mukhopadhyay said.
The package includes cinema from such countries as Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, Ethiopia, Morocco, Cameroon, Chad, Mauritania, Kenya and South Africa. The star-studded inauguration featuring five Bollywood stars including Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, struck a controversial note as veteran filmmaker Mrinal Sen and thespian Soumitra Chatterjee, who are known to harbour Left leanings, kept away from the inauguration event.
Many accused the organisers of overrunning the essence of serious cinema and gravity of a film festival by giving excessive importance to some Bollywood stars, who are not known for acting in the kind of cinema the festival screens.
Despite their known Left leanings, the film festival has lined up Mrinal Sen’s 'Ekdin Pratidin' and Tarun Majumdar’s 'Sangsar Simantey' for shows.
Upset at not being extended an invite for the inaugural event, veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee dubbed the event as crass and not in keeping with the festival’s spirit.