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KIFF 2017: Tribe of indie filmmakers begins 'corrective action'

Filmmaker Jiju Antony said the Kazhcha Indie Film Festival came into being because good films were being denied platforms at existing festivals.

Anand Gandhi at the inauguration of the first KIFF, Trivandrum. Courtesy: Kazhcha Film Forum

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Amidst great excitement and positive energy, the first Kazhcha Indie Film Festival began yesterday with several independent filmmakers in attendance and a hall packed with film enthusiasts waiting eagerly for the first screening.

Marking the occasion, Kannan Nayar, male lead of the controversial film Sexy Durga, said the festival should not be seen as a protest festival alone but as one for corrective action directed not only at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), happening concurrently, but also at other festivals in the country that keep out independent productions.

Nayar said it was important for film festivals to correct themselves as technology has opened the medium of cinema to everyone. “In the new age, film is everybody’s medium," he said. "There are no rules [of entry] now.”

However, he said, festivals and older filmmakers seem to believe that films should be shot in a certain way and try to impose those rules on new filmmakers. He emphasized the need to showcase independent cinema saying the KIFF will be a seven-day festival next year. This year, the festival lasts only four days.

Jiju Antony, director of the critically acclaimed Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani? (The Forsaken), recounted the humble beginnings of the Kazhcha Film Forum, which is organizing this festival. The first feature-length film produced by Kazhcha, Oraalppokkam (2014), was also the directorial debut of Sanal Kumar Sasidharan and Kerala's first crowd-funded film. It won several awards and was featured at prominent festivals.

Speaking of the forum's experience, the director said film production did not prove to be as big a challenge as distribution, so Kazhcha launched ‘Cinema Vandi’ (Cinema Cab) in 2015 as an alternative distribution channel for independent films. As a result, Oraalppokkam was screened across Kerala over three months with more than 100 shows at various venues.

Antony said KIFF took birth because several good films were being denied platforms at the existing festivals. “We are not trying to compete with anyone,” he said, acknowledging the IFFK's contribution in fostering a love for cinema in several members of the KIFF team. He read out the Festival Manifesto and announced that KIFF will be a permanent festival offering “constructive criticism”. 

Filmmaker Anand Gandhi, who was invited to declare the festival open, expressed gratitude at being amongst his peers whose works were an inspiration for him. “Like every new wave of the zeitgeist, we also feel that we are at the moment of something new and inspiring,” he said of the launch of the festival.

Gandhi cited the example of astronomer Bob Williams who wanted to point the Hubble Space Telescope at a dark patch of sky for 100 hours. People told him it was a terrible idea and a waste of valuable time but that is how astronomers began to spot previously unknown galaxies, billions of years old, which they had never imagined. "The whole exercise began with someone saying we are not looking at the right things and therefore the need for corrective measures,” he said.

Seeing the inception of KIFF in a similar light, he congratulated Sanal Kumar for taking the initiative. “Responsibility is not granted to us, but filmmakers like Sanal have claimed it and grabbed it, just like looking in the darkness for the light,” the Ship Of Theseus (2013) director said.

The festival began with the screening of Karie, the debut film of Shanavas Naranipuzha.

Related topics

Kazhcha Indie Film Festival IFFK