The IFFI-Goa saga

How Goa Earned Its Festival and Film Culture –By Sachin Chatte

IFFI is one of the fifteen FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films) accredited film festivals around the world in the competitive category, and the only Indian film festival in this elite group. India’s most prestigious film festival is also Asia’s oldest, having started way back in 1952. A US delegation participated in the inaugural edition in Bombay, as it was known then, and the legendary Hollywood director Frank Capra attended it.It has been more than a decade since the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) moved to Goa. The magic of celluloid has since been jubilantly celebrated in this state. For film lovers, this ten-day film fiesta is the equivalent of watching The Three Tenors concert for an operatic music lover, or seeing Lionel Messi live in action for a football fan.

Subsequently IFFI was taken to other cities like Madras, Delhi and Calcutta. The competition section was introduced in 1965 with the Sri Lankan film Gamperaliya becoming the first recipient of the top honour, the Golden Peacock.

The festival travelled to different parts of the country till 2003 when it was decided to give it an identity of its own. After all, with the exception of Sundance (which is in Utah), festivals around the world are identified with the city where they are held, be it Cannes, Toronto, Venice or Karlovy Vary.

Few places in India have the kind of established brand name that Goa does. The splendid locales and mélange of culture in this tiny state create the perfect ambience for delegates to enjoy films and exchange ideas.

Back in 2004, the then Chief Minister of Goa Manohar Parrikar personally took the initiative to move IFFI to Goa. While the natural beauty and heritage of the state made it a favourable choice, there were quite a few odds stacked against it. To start with, there was no infrastructure to host a festival of this magnitude. Added to that came insinuations that Goa didn’t have a film culture. The former came up in record time—the INOX multiplex and other public infrastructure projects like the new Patto bridge were built in a period of just six months. In spite of all the cynicism, the first IFFI in Goa was a grand success.

There was a lot of skepticism in the first few years, questioning whether Goa deserved and could sustain the festival. Those questions have been answered and laid to rest by the IFFI delegates from all over India, who turn up in large numbers year after year. The festival is here to stay.

As for the film culture in Goa, the tide has turned—there are film clubs flourishing in Goa and even the weekly releases at the Multiplex are met with tremendous enthusiasm. The number of Konkani films made is going up every year and the scenario is brighter than ever before.

Even though IFFI has brought in a lot of joy for film lovers for a long time now, it hasn’t quite broken into the next league. For instance the Berlin film festival started in 1951, just a year before IFFI but is now among the top three fests (along with Cannes and Venice).

In terms of infrastructure, only two more theatres have been added at the Maquinez Palace. The screenings in other parts of the state (Margao in South Goa) have been an on and off affair. With the growing numbers, hopefully we’ll see additional theatres in the near future.

As an indirect effect of IFFI, the state has also benefitted on the tourism front.  Since 2005, the number of films shot in Goa has increased significantly. Last year there were more than a dozen Hindi films made here, not to mention other regional films. The best free publicity one can expect in India is either to be featured in a cricket match or a Bollywood film, and Goa has certainly benefitted from the latter. Our instantly recognisable locales now feature numerous Indian and international films (like the Bourne Supremacy) and this in turn makes Goa an even more iconic destination.

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