Stamped 'boring', the government-organised Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) has earned flak over the years; and not without reason. This year, the festival expanded its reach to include short and animation films from India and abroad.
More then 200 films from 41 participating countries were screened in an attempt to popularise documentaries and animated films and give new filmmakers a platform to present their work before industry professionals. Unfortunately, most of the patrons ended up comparing the festival to Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) that screens feature films from across the globe. And were disappointed.
The fest had its share of glitches too. While the opening ceremony and the first day saw a relatively packed house, with screenings starting on the dot, the weekend brought in some delays.
The good news is that the biennial event is soon to become an annual fest. It has received the nod from Ambika Soni, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, present at the opening ceremony. This should raise the standards of documentaries being made.
"Now that we know it is going to be an annual event, more filmmakers can prepare themselves for it well in advance. It will be almost like a college project for a wide audience," says Shreya Rubin, an upbeat second year student.
The sad news is that on Sunday - a day before the curtains came down - the venue wore a deserted look. "There's no glam but it's a great forum for debut filmmakers and students. And gives film buffs like me a chance to catch up," says a homemaker (that doesn't want to be named) from Navi Mumbai who was present at the screening of The Fortress, a Swiss documentary on asylum seekers.
"The theatres are never packed; but the audience is evenly distributed, as different films are being shown on different screens," says Arya, a student present at the venue.
The 7.30 pm show on Sunday had been prescheduled without viewers being warned in advance about the change in timings. As a result, many viewers arrived for the movie late and some chose not to see it at all, since the film had already started. Some who were inside, walked out during the screening. Among them was Pooja Saha who wrote it off, saying: "The movie didn't have an audience connect."
"The interview format didn't work. But it was an educational and motivating film," pointed out director Vinod Pandey, who is awaiting the release of his film, Chaloo Movie.
Not so entertaining
All the documentaries broadly fell into the 45-minute, one-hour, one-and-a-half and two-hour slots. While, the 45-minute category that usually screened more than one film found many takers, the two-hour slots went empty.
A bunch of students from the Shrishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, pointed out, it was "good overall". But a majority of the audience were not too sure if they were going to be watching any more documentaries for a while. Some asserted that the format wasn't entertaining even though the films on show were an eclectic mix of fact and fiction. Shreyasi, a student from Shrishti School, hit the nail on the head with her summation: "The 'up to 10-minute' documentaries were too cramped with facts."