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Festival Diary

Friday, October 25, 2013
By Deepa Gahlot

The annual MAMI Mumbai Film Festival ended yesterday with a good collection of films from all over the world, plus workshops and master classes. So just some random impressions:

If a film festival of this size has to have ‘character’, it must have a permanent venue. When it used to be at the Wadala Imax for a few years, everybody grumbled about going to the back of beyond and be stuck there in the wilderness with nothing to do in between films, but that also meant full concentration on the festival. In spare time, or while waiting in queues, one met people, talked about films; the ones seen, the ones to be seen. Copious amounts of tea and coffee were consumed, and sandwiches gulped down because there was no time to eat properly. This time between screenings was sometimes more fun than the films themselves.

There were discussions and open forums and meet-the-director sessions in the midst of all that chaos and that was fun too. At festivals, a lot of people do multiple films in one slot, see a bit of one, if it doesn’t appeal, sneak into the next theatre, catch the last part of another still running.

This year, the films were divided between one multiplex in Versova and another in South Mumbai, with the festival desk at a single screen theatre nearby, the interactive sessions in a multiplex screen, the film mart at a hotel at distance away and the whole experience of enjoying the festival with a ‘community’ of film lovers was lost.

The film and TV fraternity hung out at Versova (which is closer to their places of work and residence) and the rest of the world at South Mumbai.

On day one, there was bedlam, long lines of angry people and clueless volunteers at the desks, and catalogues ran out even before the festival started.

This year, there was a high-tech system of booking seats in advance through the net — this was done to avoid over-crowding and long queues. But there was over-crowding and queues anyway, because the popular films were booked a few minutes after the registrations opened; but people also knew that there would be many no-shows, so waited impatiently to get in. Once booked, there was no chance of changing one’s mind, and that crazy pleasure of hopping between theatres was curtailed. And one could not catch up with friends unless everyone booked for the same film, and that was not always possible unless everyone logged on at the same time.

The industry folks who were watching films at Versova were missing the open forums and interactions that were in the other end of town; and the townies were missing the buzz and throb of a festival populated by people from the heart of the industry.

The films were great, the media coverage decent, and social media activity much more than usual. No problems there.

All things considered, a festival should be informal and enjoyable, not a list of to-do chores to be accomplished with a checklist in hand.

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