IFFK is venue of choice for international programmers: Claire Dobbin

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec 6: The International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), the biggest audience festival, is the venue of choice for international programmers who are scouting for films for their own events, said former Chairman of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Ms Claire Dobbin.

She was speaking on the “Global Audience” at the Aravindan Memorial Lecture at Tagore Theatre.

The erudite session, pointed to the importance of film festivals by tracing their history and evolution, and the global political, cultural and economic impact that they leave.

“Film festivals offer a very different viewing experience focussed on bringing the best of new world cinema, rather than box office hits, to audiences,” said the Australian script advisor/editor, who was also chief mentor at an IFFK workshop for young film professionals. “And while the rise of digital cinema came as a threat to festivals, the shared cinema experience that the latter offers cannot be substituted.”

This was most true of Kerala, she averred. “The excitement among audiences at the opening night screening of Jean-Jacques Annaud’sWolf Totem was palpable,” she noted.

Pointing to the example of Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, which famously evaded going ‘straight to DVD’ thanks to winning the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival, Ms Dobbin said that film festivals, which can deliver global audiences, bestow an iconic status to a film and are creators of success. “They are portals of new talent and predictors of new directions in cinema,” she said.

Film festivals are also major players in political debate and a powerful forum for discussing social, cultural, economic and political issues. MIFF once faced a strong outside attempt at shutdown, she reminisced.

“We were completely unprepared for the response that we got for screening a documentary on activists in north west China in 2009,” she said. “Our ticketing site was hacked every day and all the Chinese filmmakers withdrew from the festival.” But the organisers did not back down and the audience willingly queued up for hours to watch films.  “The attempt to close us down backfired and we received global support for our spirited response and our freedom to choose the films that we wanted to screen.”

Only a film festival can screen films with dangerous ideas, she said.

Festival Advisory Committee Chairman Shri Shaji N Karun was present at the lecture.


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