The sheer popularity of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) is leading to its expansion this year, while sister event Film Bazaar, South Asia’s largest content market, will have a focus on new technology, one of the country’s top film officials has revealed.
The Indian government-backed events run in parallel in Goa in November each year in close geographic proximity.
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In 2022, demand for tickets at the public-facing IFFI was so strong that reservations had to be paused on the second day of the festival. “We are trying to expand IFFI to such a scale where we will be able to accommodate more films, more people, more venues,” Prithul Kumar, Joint Secretary, Films, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and MD, National Film Development Corporation, told Variety. Efforts are on to add at least three more venues, Kumar said.
While a film attracted some criticism from a jury member last year, the event’s global sheen has seen the festival already attract a record number of entries months before it is due to take place.
“The film programming is going to be much more elaborate this time,” Kumar said. “Last year we started integrating a lot of gala screenings and red carpets as a part of IFFI, which we are already charting out this year with the major production houses that the films which are releasing around that time will premiere there.”
A vital component of IFFI are the masterclasses, which last year attracted the likes of Oscar winners Mark Osborne and A.R. Rahman, Shekhar Kapur and “RRR” writer Vijayendra Prasad. Over at the industry-facing Film Bazaar, the ‘Knowledge Series’ sessions attract captains of the media industry. “We are trying to definitely curate right from the beginning, much better and much higher-scale masterclasses,” Kumar said. “We are trying to harmonize the masterclasses with the Knowledge Series sessions.”
As with all the fall festivals, the ongoing Hollywood strikes could have an impact, with some high-profile masterclass invitees unable to attend, should it continue till November. “We are really hoping that it gets over before the autumn – it should not be continuing that long because it’s going to be a major loss to all of the film fraternity globally,” Kumar said. “But, we always have a backup plan. So, we are working a lot with the European film commissions and the other continents as well.”
Meanwhile, documentaries and technology will be the focus areas at Film Bazaar this year. Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga Kapoor’s Indian film “The Elephant Whisperers” won the documentary short Oscar earlier this year. “To underline that and also recognizing which we saw at the various film festivals, that documentaries are getting more and more attention worldwide in different festivals, with the audience, we have put that also in our programming of Film Bazaar,” Kumar said. Documentaries will now also be an integral part of the event’s co-production market and screenwriters lab.
The Indian government has identified the animation, VFX, XR, gaming and comics (AVGC-XR) arena as a “sunrise” sector and the country is one of the hubs for international post-production work. This year Film Bazaar will have a VFX pavilion where international and Indian companies will be showcased. “We hope that with the traditional acumen of Indians and a bent towards culture and arts and absorbing and adopting new technologies, they can really do a lot of creation of visual effects and animation for the entire world, not just for Indian films, and they are already doing it,” Kumar said.
The VFX pavilion will be part of a series of Cannes-style waterfront pavilions that the Bazaar introduced last year. This year, the market has been in touch with film commissions from 50 countries to put up pavilions in Goa. “India has given a lot of incentives not just for film shooting but also for co-producing with other countries with which we have agreements with. As the world has globalized, our stories are also globalizing and the filmmaking also has to be global,” Kumar said. “Governments are also pitching in to support – the filmmakers should be aware of such possibilities such as the areas which are available to collaborate.”
IFFI takes place Nov. 20-28 and the Film Bazaar Nov. 20-24.
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