Monday, January 8, 2007

Thinking about the IFFI

I wish they’d shut up about ‘Film culture’. They’ve gone on enough about it, and its about time we put an end to that nonsense. Fact is the term probably emerged in the flurry of reactions following the announcement of Goa as a venue for the International Film Festival of India. At that point of time, there were arguments made by other claimants for the venue, notably the Bengalis who argued that Goa was hardly the place to locate a film festival, since it did not have a ‘film culture’ as they enjoyed in Bengal. On a lighter note, you can expect the Bongs to make such a statement, they can’t get over themselves! But more seriously, there was probably good reason to make such a statement, there is an entire culture that does revolve around films, viewing them, discussing them, contemplating the many messages that a film projects out toward the viewer, the making of film etc. However, take a look at the rolls of the film festival since it migrated to Goa and one will realize how the Goan has been quick to realize that there is a lot to gather from the film festival. The presence of the local Goan in the festival has visibly increased since the first year the film festival was hosted in Goa.

The snoot would still argue that the local has not yet developed the ability to contemplate films at an esoteric or philosophical level. That all they are heading for are slapstick and light cinema. This however is no crime; to each his own, and if light cinema and laughs are your cup of tea, then you have a right to it. And yet, if these laughs come from a world entirely different from your own, surely you have gained an insight into humour and context of an alien environment? There is learning in that, and learning piled on learning, leads eventually to that cosmopolitan society which probably hosts that as yet elusive ‘film culture’.

There can be no doubt that the location of the film festival in Goa can benefit the local population, simply because we will have access to the world, literally in our own backyard. But this does not mean we need to ignore the nonsense that goes on in the name of the film festival. Why in heaven’s name do we have to screen regular Bollywood hits on beaches around Goa? I would like to argue that these screening represent the manner in which a certain lumpen mass is being actively created by the Government. If the argument of the Government is that the ‘masses’ are not interested in serious film, the counter would be, don’t show serious film. But show light cinema from different parts of the world and expose us to concerns and contexts different from our own! Would it not be possible to similarly work out a system where theatre halls around the state show movies from the festival so that we don’t necessarily need to travel to Panjim to see the films? In such basic moves would we be laying the ground work for a knowledge society in Goa. It is honestly tragic that all talk about knowledge society always revolves around the incorporation of computer technology into institutions. This understanding of a knowledge society is delusional since it is actively disprivileges forms of knowledge that cannot be translated into computer technology and also those segments of society that cannot have access to computers and the internet. A great example would be the building of the IT park in Dona Paula, where in the name of IT and knowledge society, a good number of the residents of Taligao have had their fields, grazing lands and crematorium snatched away. Is there any talk of compensation or livelihood provision for these people? One has not heard a whisper of it so far. Forget a film culture, in time these people are going to be scrambling just to have two square meals a day.

There has been a good amount of local opposition to the continued hosting of the Film festival in Goa. Given that the State is not listening to the rightful demands of the citizens at all, it is only natural that they would want to use the IFFI as a way of getting the attention of the State. Unfortunately the State persists in its appalling behaviour, cutting out the local from meaningful participation in the festival and instead pushing them further into ignorance in the name of the festival. It continues to treat the IFFI as a personal fiefdom, another cow whose udders are milked for personal benefit. In the end, why is it always that the local is the one who looses out? Why must we be forced to oppose an event that can only add depth to our lives? There are no answers unfortunately, only more questions and more angst.

(published in the Gomantak Times, 2006)

No comments: