It is a beautiful morning in Kohima as I write this. I am here for the 2nd Nagaland Film Festival, even as the 3rd Guwahati International Film Festival is underway in Guwahati. In a few days from now, Shillong will also have its own festival starting – the Kelvin International Film Festival initiated by veteran distributor and producer Shankar Lall Goenka and managed by Pradip Kurbah and Dominic Sangma, two of the most-talented filmmakers from Northeast India we have today.
The point I am making is – our Northeast is seeing a number of film festivals happening in the last few years. And the fact is, no one is complaining, because in this case, the more is the better.
In the Northeast, the film society movement had played the leading role in initiating organisation of film festivals, and the Gauhati Cine Club has been organizing the oldest-continuing film festival in the region. Festivals initiated by societies like the Assam Cine Art Society (ACAS) and Cine Art Society, Assam (Cineasa) have died down either because the societies themselves became defunct or there were lack of funding. Even now, film societies in places like Tezpur, Silchar, etc., are organizing film festivals regularly, while several film festivals like Brahmaputra Valley Film Festivals and ADDA Film Festival have become platforms for unearthing young talents from the region.
In other states of the region, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, either the government or film organisations have started to conduct film festivals, and there are plans in Manipur also to start an international film festival in the coming days.
But, what is most heartening is that Assam has taken the lead in creating a real international-standard film festival in the shape of GIFF. Though it is only in its third edition, GIFF has been able to generate buzz across the country, with its National Competition section (expanded from the Assamese cinema competition of the first two editions), and a very good collection of films this year. The fact that a legend like Polish master Krzysztof Zanussi is attending this year’s festival is proof that it is being taken seriously by the international film community. The credit goes to the Assam government for giving the necessary budgetary support to Jyoti Chitraban to organize it in association with the DBHRGFTI.
Looking forward, to really be counted among the crème de la crème of film festivals in India, what GIFF needs to do is to become a platform also for unearthing new talents from Northeast as well as rest of India. While it is natural progression for it to start a national film competition, it’s been letdown that the Assamese film competition has been discontinued from this year. What it would do well is to perhaps start a competition for Northeastern films along with the national competition, like International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) does through its international competition and a separate competition for new Malayalam cinema. The GIFF can nominate two films from Assam/NE for the national competition while having a competition for NE films among rest of the entries selected by its selection committee. Because, if we don’t unearth and give a platform to our own filmmakers, who else will?