Films Division, Government of India and Nandan, West Bengal Film Centre, jointly presented “MIFF in KOLKATA II”, from 15-17 December 2009, at Nandan~II. It was a festival of award winning films from the “Mumbai International Film Festival for documentary, Short and Animation”, held biennially in Mumbai.

by Shoma A. Chatterji

Films Division, Government of India and Nandan, West Bengal Film Centre, jointly presented “MIFF in KOLKATA II”, from 15-17 December 2009, at Nandan~II. It was a festival of award winning films from the “Mumbai International Film Festival for documentary, Short and Animation”, held biennially in Mumbai. This festival showcased some of the finest cinematic works realized in the last six years throughout the world.

MIFF LOGO- Film Fest in Kolkata
MIFF LOGO- Film Fest in Kolkata

The MIFF received 864 entries from 37 countries across the world which is an all-time record. From this edition, the International and Indian Competition sections have been merged into a single Competition section. A new award is being introduced this year for Best Student Film/Video. The award money has also been enhanced amounting to a total of Rs.22.75 lacs along with the Golden/Silver Conches awarded in different categories. The Dr. V. Shantaram Award will be bestowed to an Indian filmmaker for his/her lifetime contribution to the documentary film movement comprised of a cash award and a trophy. 64 films have been selected in the Competition Section and 43 in the Non-Competition section.


During the three-day preview festival in Kolkata, 15 films were screened picked from countries like USA, India, Belgium, Bulgaria, Australia, Canada, Lebanon, Bangladesh and UK. A Match Made in Calcutta is the 1999 film made by Frances Key Phillips is a documentary that captures marginalized young men and women from the Marwari community in Kolkata searching for life partners through a social welfare organization run by affluent and educated Marwari women. It won the Best International Documentary Award (2002) in the up to 60 minutes category. The film also follows a couple of these marriages nine months later, to find out whether such marriages worked or not. Though investigative and probing, the film steers away from any aesthetics and chooses to stick to social comment.

Antara Kak’s A Life in DanceDaksha Sheth, on the other hand, essays the strikingly unusual lifestyle and dance style of Daksha Sheth who has created an innovative style in dance. She has incorporated the folk style of Chhau, the martial art form of Kalaripayattu and the acrobatic traditional sport of Malkhamb, from Maharashtra to create and innovative style that calls upon the flexibility and fluidity of the entire body performed preferably, in natural surroundings. The film bagged the Best First Film of a Director Award at the National Awards in 2002.

Whose is the Song, directed by Adela Peeva of Bulgaria won the Best Documentary Award and the Bet Critics Award in 2004. In a small restaurant in Istanbul, the director was having dinner with friends from various Balkan countries – a Greek, a Macedonian, a Turk, a Serb and the director herself, a Bulgarian. They hear a song and everyone begins to hum along in his/her own language, claiming it is their country’s song. This leads to a fierce fight around the question of who the song really belongs to. It is a telling comment on the universality of the human condition. Melinda Wearne of Australia made Children of Tibet that won the Best International Documentary Award in 2002. It is about the hundreds of Tibetan children who risk escaping across the Himalayas in search of an education in India. Gayatri Rao’s Raju and I is an animation film that probes into the problems of underprivileged children from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy named Atul. The film won the Best National Animation Award in 2004.

Laxmikant Shelgaonkar’s A Seaside Story is about a schoolteacher who is frustrated in all his attempts to change his fellow-villagers’ ideology from making money to more important matters of humanity in Goa. It won the Best National Fiction Award in 2004. One of the most shocking documentaries was Images of Dictatorship by Patricia Henriquez of Canada that covers a visual collage documenting General Augusto Pinochet’s reign of terror in Chile. One of the best films is Ajay Raina’s Tell Them the Tree They Have Planted Has Now Grown which is an introspective and retrospective journey undertaken by the filmmaker who goes back to Kashmir after 12 long years of exile from his homeland to witness the scars of a paradise lost.

At the press conference preceding the festival in Kolkata, four angry young filmmakers of Kolkata raised questions about the credibility of the selection panel that had left out four very important and internationally renowned documentary films from the festival. The films are Wagah, directed by Supriyo Sen, Bilal, directed by Saurav Sarangi, Understanding Trafficking by Ananya Chatterjee and two films by Ranjan PalitForever Young and In Camera. Wagah incidentally, has won 24 international awards including top awards at Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Bilbao, Krakow, Hamburg, etc. Bilal, a touching film about a small boy with blind parents and his perspective of being a sighted person among two blind parents, has won 15 international awards. “How did these films not get included by the selection panel?” they asked Kuldeep Sinha, Chief Producer, Films Division who responded by saying that as Chief Producer, he did not believe in intruding into the selection done by the selection panel. The protestors demanded the names of the members of the selection panel and raised questions about the veracity of a couple of these members to participate in the panel at all.

The Films Division demands that members chosen for the selection panel must be free for 40 running days to watch films in Mumbai. Few eligible and experienced persons can be found to keep themselves free for this considerable span of time, leaving their regular work. Thus, this leaves unanswered questions about the members. However, the Chief Producer gave out the names of which some were better-known as filmmakers and journalists, some names were not heard of recently. The protesting filmmakers, Supriyo Sen, Saurabh Sarangi and Ananya Chatterjee left the Press Conference at Nandan IV in a huff.

The Chief Producer insisted that these filmmakers were making it a ‘personal’ issue which could not be addressed. But this is not true because Supriyo Sen’s earlier film Way Back Home is very much a part of the screening programme even in Kolkata. “Most of us were inspired to become filmmakers after attending the MIFF when we were students. It was the biggest documentary, short and animation film festival in the world and also the best. It is sad that today, the Indian audience will be deprived from watching some of the internationally acknowledged documentary films made by filmmakers in their own country!”

One solution to this problem, suggested by a FD officer who chose to remain anonymous, is to introduce a rule by which all documentary films screened in the Indian Panorama of IFFI every year be automatically included in the MIFF without going through the selection process. The other suggestion is to automatically include national award-winning documentary, short and animation films in this festival. “My film is doing very well internationally. It does not matter if it is not selected for MIFF screening,” said Saurabh Sarangi. “But I am raising my voice because I have reservations about its exclusion and I also wanted my own people to watch it,” he summed up before storming out.


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