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For IFFI, Goa is still miles away

IFFI certainly isn?t moving to Goa next year. Only three preliminary meetings have been held so far but the proposed Goa Film Festival is yet to be put in place, reports Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2003 16:56 IST

Life has never been smooth for the International Film Festival of India. Even the move that its organizers are planning from New Delhi to Goa appears to have run into choppy waters. Delhi isn’t the greatest venue for a film festival, but if you think this is indeed the last time IFFI will he held here, you’ve got another think coming.

IFFI certainly isn’t moving to Goa next year. According to officials representing the government of Goa, only three preliminary meetings have been held so far but the formation of a high-powered organizing committee to drive the proposed Goa Film Festival is yet to be put in place.

Until that takes shape, even a basic plan for the construction of the necessary infrastructure in Goa cannot be drawn up. Even top officials of the DFF admit that IFFI is unlikely to be shifted to Goa until 2005.

If IFFI does not move to Goa in 2004, the next general elections could change equations completely. The National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre is playing ball with Goa because the state is ruled by the BJP. If the government at the Centre by the end of next year, the "let’s go Goa" will end up, like many typically myopic government plans tend to do, in the waste paper bin of history.

That apart, a strong opposition is building up against the move. Renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, a man the organizers of IFFI generally prefer to keep at an arm’s length because of his well-known propensity to call a spade a spade, loves to tear into the government’s decision to move the festival to Goa.
"I am not complaining of the lack of a film culture in Goa. What I am against is the wastage of money that the move will entail. Crores of rupees have been invested in the Siri Fort complex and we should ensure that this venue is utilized," says Gopalakrishnan.

The globally acclaimed director raises questions about the ability of the DFF to pull off a Cannes-like event in Goa, he says: "Cannes certainly isn’t only about its natural. It is about the content that it attracts and the spread of activities it organizes. What’s the use of imitating the superficial attributes and not getting the details right?"

Kannada filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli, a member of this year’s Asian Competition jury, is equally vociferous about his misgivings. "The festival is being shifted to Goa under pressure from the Mumbai film industry," he alleges. And he is probably right.

For an industry that has rarely ever succeeded in bridging the gap between the frivolity of sheer entertainment and the exacting demands of cinematic art, even a film festival can only be an occasion for fun and games. Can there be a better place for that than Goa?

Of course, the Goa government has understandably taken the proposal will the seriousness it can muster. Says Jayshree Raghuraman, the Goa government’s Art & Culture secretary: "We are open going full steam ahead. It will be our endeavour to make Goa a fitting venue for the international film festival. We are open to suggestions from all quarters."

But the worry being expressed by a large section of IFFI regulars pertains to the fact that a place like Goa might be out of bounds for delegates who have to make do with limited budgets. Since one senior film critic: "If IFFI does indeed move to Goa, it will turn into an event meant only for foreign delegates and a handful of invitees. Real lovers of cinema will be unable to sustain the high cost of travelling to Goa and staying there for ten full days. The hotels in the vicinity of the festival venue, we are told, are all five-star ones."

As the fears and worries about the suitability of Goa as an international film festival venue mounts each passing day, the government, true to form, continues up the garden path with nary a viable plan in place.

First Published: Oct 16, 2003 12:48 IST