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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



IFFI 50: Complexities of the complex

IFFI 50: Complexities of the complex

As a film festival that wants to vie with the best in the world, the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) needs a regular festival complex. It does not have one. IFFI moved to Panaji, Goa, in 2004, a good 15 years ago. To facilitate this move from Delhi to Goa, the then Chief Minister, late Manohar Parrikar, leased out land to the INOX group of multiplexes, and a four screen cinema hall was built in a record 100 days. The Goa government also acquired the Kala Academy, less than a km down the road from INOX, as well as the old Goa Medical College (GMC) building, for the duration of the festival. Roads were paved and buildings decorated, enough to host the first edition.

Fifteen years later, we have the same venues for screening, INOX x 4+Kala Academy, with the addition of Maquinez Palace x 2 (adjacent to the old GMC building) and INOX Porvorim (twenty minutes’ drive from Maquinez) x 3. Some 4-hour films were screened at INOX Porvorim in late night shows, often ending around 3 am. That is where one sorely felt the need of a complex, with 11-12 screens. A complex that would have a Media Centre thrice the size we have now in the old GMC building, a cinema complex that would accommodate 4,000 delegates, as against the current capacity of just around 2,000. Registrations for IFFI have crossed 13,000 in some years, which means that as many as11,000 delegates could be left high and dry for particular shows/days. Assuming that not all 13,000 would be present at the same time, 4,000 out of 13,000 is still quite a fair deal, compared to 2,000 out of 13,000. If registrations fall to around 10,000, or lower, the ratio is even better. But IFFI makes it a point to flaunt figures to prove that it is growing in popularity and demand.

One gathers from authoritative sources that 350-700 media-persons are accredited during IFFI. Obviously, we need a media centre that will accommodate at least 150. The present one in use can barely accommodate 50. For press conferences too, there is just about enough space for 30-40 people. Agreed that some PCs, the turnout is as low as 10, that does not mean that we should make arrangements for just 10 people. What about days when the turnout is 80? Or 100? A 150 seater PC hall is a must. And that will happen only at a complex.

Student delegates, some economically deprived film-folk, and media-persons, are feeling the pinch of renting rooms in hotels that cost between Rs. 500 (hostel/bunker) to Rs. 5,000 a day. These days, most publications and websites do not bear the cost of journalists travelling to Panaji and staying at hotels. And what about freelancers? Soon, media turnout at IFFI will peter down to a trickle. Unless, of course, there is a complex built that includes a three-tier rooms arrangement: Grade I—Rs. 4,000-5,000; Grade II—Rs. 1,000-2,000 and Grade III—Rs. 500, inclusive of breakfast and a full-fledged canteen as well as a large restaurant.

A total of 2,500 persons should be provided accommodation, with preference given to senior citizens, persons with disabilities, IFFI veteran journalists (those who have attended 25 or more IFFIs) and students. Precious time would be saved in travelling from hotels to cinemas/Media Centre, which can be 10-30 minutes, depending on where you find a hotel to suit your budget. We would also do away with shuttle auto-rickshaw ferries and coaches to take us from the hub to various venues. What is more, dinners and cocktails could be held in the complex itself, which would have a 1,000 capacity banquet hall. These figures are by no means final or definitive, but a start has to be made somewhere. Of course, those who want to hold events away from the complex would be welcome to do so.

No complex was built in the early years of IFFI Goa because there was some speculation about Goa being the permanent venue. It was feared that the festival might be shifted back to Delhi, especially if a different political dispensation came to power at the Centre and/or the State. A different political dispensation did come to power, both at the Centre and the State, but IFFI stayed in Goa. Then, some years ago, it was announced that land had been acquired and that the “next” IFFI would be held at the new complex. I have lost count of how many years ago this announcement was made.

Screenings and Media Centre apart, there is another reason for building the complex. Both the opening and closing ceremony are held at a stadium that is a good 20-25 minute drive from the hub. With a complex in place, there would be stadium that could hold 5,000 persons, a figure that would serve the purpose well. That would put an end to being ferried 90 minutes before the programme begins, in limited number of coaches, and then waiting another 30 minutes after it is over, to find transport back to the hub. Often, there are just two coaches for the media, that seat a total of 60-70 persons, while some 140 need to be transported. Hardly a desirable situation!

It is not being suggested that building a complex is either easy or cheap, but if the long-term goals are the convenience and affordability needs of the delegates and media-persons, there is little choice. And all this would lead to a much more streamlined IFFI, on par with the best fests in the world. We are just about 15 years behind schedule in building an IFFI Complex. If the INOX at Panaji could be built in 100 days, we can target 10 November 2020 as the date for the inauguration of the new complex, which is some 350 days away. If land was indeed acquired several years ago, some work must already have been done in this direction, so the deadline is not as unrealistic as it might appear on first sight. Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), the local partner of the Directorate of Film Festivals, which is the Central Government’s nodal body for organising the festival, should make the building of a festival complex a top of the agenda priority. The long delay is hurting badly.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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