While COVID-19 keeps everyone in the #StayHomeStaySafe mode, the consumption of content on OTT platforms is on an unprecedented high, even as channels are making a run for reruns, including Doordarshan which has dug up golden oldies from its archives.

Not left behind are the film festivals too, several of them announcing online-only editions this year or pulling out selections from previous years to put them online. This, even as the biggest of them all, Cannes, is for now braving it out postponing its regular edition in May till a probable June-July window though that looks extremely unlikely given the severity of the pandemic outbreak worldwide, more so in Europe.

From India’s own boutique Dharamashala International Film Festival (DIFF) to European biggies like International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and International Film Festival Rotterdam, festivals are offering online viewing of chosen films on their websites, most of them available for free.

On the other hand, festivals like Visions du Réel in Nyon, France, and Ethnocineca in Vienna, Austria, have cancelled their regular festivals and having online-only versions this year.

DIFF, in a statement, has announced that it is presenting a “DIFF Viewing Room” on its website, in which a specially-curated selection of films by DIFF alumni is being made available. Festival founder Ritu Sarin said, “We hope you are all keeping safe and staying well as we navigate these turbulent and uncharted waters. COVID-19 is reshaping the world as we know it and no one knows what awaits us on the other shore. Here at DIFF, we are trying to keep our spirits afloat by turning once again to cinema to inspire and encourage us.”

“The deep humanism and artistic insights that inform the best of cinema are as relevant in the age of Coronavirus as they have always been. With this in mind, we reached out to DIFF filmmaker alumni and explored the idea of making films openly accessible to the DIFF community. The response from our filmmakers has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are deeply grateful to those that rallied to our call,” she said. The selection, which will be available at http://diff.co.in/viewing-room/, will be updated every two weeks.

The films available on the DIFF website currently are “A Syrian Love Story” (UK, Password: Syria2020), “Tripoli Cancelled: (Greece & Bangladesh, Password: dharamsala2020), drama “A Korean in Paris” (South Korea, Password: sooil0701) and “With You Without You” (Sri Lanka, Password: wywy2020vod).

IDFA, meanwhile, has made available a large number of films on its festival website, saying, “We stand in solidarity with film festivals, filmmakers, and film professionals around the world who have been hit hard by this pandemic… In the spirit of togetherness and the love of documentary film, we have put together some curated selections from our online collection.”

The festival has made available for free or a small fee around 200 films and interactive documentaries that have been shown at IDFA over the years via this link. In addition, it has curated some special programming, such as “Solidarity” and “Profession: Journalist”. Among the films available on the IDFA website is the critically-acclaimed “An Insignificant Man” by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, which takes a fly-on-the-wall view of the India Against Corruption movement and how Arvind Kejriwal formed the Aam Aadmi Party following it.

Documentary Educational Resources (DER), one of the most-prominent platforms for documentaries on a wide range of subjects, has also started a “Watch From Home” programme. Under it, DER is offering, till June 1, a curated selection of 24 new releases and classic titles from its collection for free (The link:  https://www.der.org/watch-from-home, promo code: WFH2020).

Ethnocineca, a major festival for ethnographic films held in Vienna, has announced that its 14th edition, scheduled during May 7-14 has been cancelled due to the current situation regarding COVID-19. “We announce this cancellation with a heavy heart….but there is also good news! During the planned festival dates, we will make a selection of this year’s programme available to you, for the first time online.”

Similarly, Visions du Réel, which has selected 130 films from 53 countries, including 89 world premieres, for its 51st edition, has announced that it would be held online, with the entire selection (Programme 2020) available for free.

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About Utpal Borpujari


Utpal Borpujari is a National Film Award winning filmmaker and film critic. He won national award for his debut feature film 'Ishu'.


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