Mumbai Film Festival, Nagraj Manjule, Bruce

Event fostering growing India-Western cross-fertilization

HONG KONG – The Mexican film “La Jaula de Oro” was named as the best international film at the close of the 15th edition of the Mumbai Film Festival on Thursday. The Silver Gateway of India trophy was awarded to “Fandry,” directed by Nagraj Manjule (pictured with Bruce Beresford,) as the best Indian film.

In the separate India Gold competition, documentary “Powerless” was named best film, with “Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost,” directed by Anup Singh as runner up. Manju Borah’s “Ko:yad” (A Silent Way) received a special jury prize.

Although hampered by budget and sponsorship issues, the festival and its accompanying market this week proved to be very honorable attempts to engage the often separate Indian and international cinema sectors in each other.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences used it as the platform to move its “Digital Dilemma” campaign on digital film archiving to India. Later AMPAS unveiled versions of its report translated into Marathi.

The festival boasted a selection of some 200 films from 65 countries, comprising a solid mix of overseas films plucked from earlier festivals, and a wide local selection that ranged from some of the most commercial titles to some that were decidedly more experimental. These gave overseas guests a taste of the diversity within India, while the Spanish and French tribute sections provided in-depth insight into specific overseas industries.

Spain was also given special status within the Mumbai Film Mart, which packed in half a dozen strands into a cramped three day, two room circus of small stands and shoulder-to-shoulder meetings.

With all the major India studios taking market space – as well as many independent producers – the meet-and-greets made it easy for visitors to canvass all the key players who have an eye on the international marketplace. The presence of top Japanese distributor Toho, in addition to returning delegate Nikkatsu, suggests that Indian efforts to help its films cross-over in Japan are beginning to bear fruit.

U.S. buyers were largely absent, but other international buyers on hand included Germany’s Rapid Eye Movies, France’s Happiness Distribution, and Novo Films.

Market activities included ‘Books2Screen (round-table discussions specific projects that can or have been adapted from stories and books); the ‘India Project Room’ where works in progress were pitched to buyers, distributors and co-financiers; and a new video screening facility called the “Filmy Room.” Market organizers claimed record attendance.

Other festival prizes went to Singapore’s Anthony Chen, who was named as best director for Cannes Camera’s d’Or winner “Ilo Ilo,” and to the film’s actress Yeo Yann Yann. The Silver Gateway of India Trophy for best actor was awarded to Vincent Macaigne for his role in French director Guillaume Brac’s “Tonnerre.” Laos-set Australian-made human drama “The Rocket” added to its considerable festival awards hauls with a win for cinematographer Andrew Commis.

The festival wrapped with a screening of Bill Condon’s Wikileaks film “The Fifth Estate,” produced by Hollywood’s Indian-backed studio DreamWorks SKG.

The event is presented by Reliance Entertainment and organized by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI).

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