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IFFK into the sweet seventeen   
Rishi K.Manoj
 Story Dated: Friday, December 7, 2012 19:9 hrs IST 
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Thiruvananthapuram:  Film Festivals were not new to Malayalam prior to the birth of IFFK under the Kerala State Film Development Corporation in 1996. Film societies and film clubs were in the forefront conducting several lowbrow movie festivals in college campuses and other across Kerala and thereby opening window of world cinema to Malayalees , in late seventies and early eighties.

However, those golden days of cinema began to fade in the nineties as many of the film societies vanished from the scene or were reduced to name sake.

Thus, the inception of IFFK  sixteen years ago  was a significant milestone in the history of Malayalam Cinema. The IFFK, from its humble beginning in 1996 has now gradually cantered to a platform of well known film festivals across the world with a fixed calendar in a five years period. The Government of Kerala had established the Kerala State Chalachithra Academy in 1998 to entrust the conduct of the IFFK.

The eleven years stint of Binapaul Venugopal , Artistic Director of the IFFK at the Chalachithra Academy has transformed  the content of the festival which is today the undisputed  hallmark of  it.  Binapaul recalls that transformation in a chat with Manorama Online-

“Those were the days with no email and internet to contact with film makers around the world , but we had succeeded in bringing films screened at famous festivals like Cannes . It was a round the year work to contact with film makers globally to ensure their films and presence without any clash with other well known festivals. Bringing a calendar and a character to the festival is what we had achieved in a short span of time .”

As Artistic Director of the IFFK for many years , how do you select films ?  

“ In selecting a film , I have to know the history of the film maker. Whether, I like the film or not is not the main question. I have to judge the audience, whether they would like it, whether showing the film is relevant to our audience or not. Of course, I know many film makers over these years and know about their films , but the most important thing is programming the content. Before finalising the content a number of factors are taken into consideration than my personal like or dislike. An Artistic Director’s  main role is doing justice to the festival  while fixing the content than personal choices . My job is to track the film maker, find his/her film and put it to the audience .  And I hope I do justice to the job  entrusted upon me .”

How do you judge a good or bad film in the selection process ?

“Stamping a film as good or bad is not the barometer for its selection in a film festival. A so-called bad film made In Mexico , according to their audience may be a worthy film to watch in our festival. A festival is for showing films and there the question of good and bad question is not always taken into account.”  

There are concerns about our festival  when compared to other major festivals. Recently , at IFFI in Goa , Shaji N. Karun made such a statement saying our IFFK lacks a track and   character of its own. What  your response ?  

“ We still  have not  five star facilities to accommodate our guests like in Goa festival. We still have not world class infrastructure. So we do not compare different festivals . We are not to compete, but to collaborate with. Within the limitations, the IFFK has been able to build its own character over the years and we have to be proud of it .”

But, Shaji N .Karun said that the IFFK still lacks a character and track of its own even after sixteen years unlike Busan International Film Festival ( South Korea) which also started the same year?

“ What he said was might be correct in his own terms of reference while talking about it. He would have aimed high in terms of a film festival in Kerala , but our limited resources play spoil sports in conducting the festival. Nevertheless, we have a festival with good content and audience . Shaji N.Karun has a broad vision and I am appreciating it, but the practicality is the main problem . How can we conduct a festival with world class facilities by spending just 3.5 crore.  Even Goa (IFFI) is having a 13.5 crore budget. He wants our festival to be a world class one, but we cannot do that with such limited resources . I think we have built up a unique character for our festival but that may not be at par with what he thinks."

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