[A] n increasing number of Indian filmmakers are turning towards film festivals of late. Film festivals across the globe not only provide exposure to their films but also offer opportunities to help the film get theatrical release. But is it true for all films that have been festival hits? There are films that travel to festivals all around the world, compete and win but they don’t manage to find a footing in theaters.
The 15th edition of the Mumbai Film Festival hosted a panel discussion on whether film festivals help films achieve success. On the panel were French co-producer of The Lunchbox Marc Baschet (ASAP Films), Filmmakers Umesh Kulkarni (Valu, Vihir, Deool) and Anand Gandhi (Ship of Theseus); and Peter Van Hoof, programmer of the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. The panel was moderated by Liz Shackleton, Asia chief, Screen International.
Marc Baschet who has also produced Oscar wining films No Man’s Land and An episode in the Life of an Iron Picker pointed out the importance of choosing the right festival depending on the needs of a film. He stressed that it is important for filmmakers to ensure that their film gets the right positioning at a festival. Citing the example of The Lunchbox at Cannes Film Festival this year, Baschet explained that getting to the biggest film festival is not enough. The film will go unnoticed if placed among others that are far more superior in content and making. He said that though The Lunchbox stood a chance to be included in Un Certain Regard in the official competition, the producers thought that the best visibility the film could get at Cannes was in the International Critics’ Week. The film was an instant hit and was sold to 27 territories.
One of the festival favourites of the year Ship of Theseus by Anand Gandhi saw a successful theatrical release in several cities in India. It was a different picture for Gandhi when he started out with his film. He didn’t have the necessary backing to chart out a strategy for film festivals. It was only after sales agent Fortissimo came on board that he got an insight into it. He said that the Indian scenario is now changing with a growing understanding of the concept of getting international co-producers on board. With the joining of international players, the budget of the film shoots up four – five times of the earlier estimate. “But even if the budget goes up, the producers see to it that the cost is recovered. Since there are more hands on board, there are more territories to showcase your film,” he said.
Umesh Kulkarni, whose films have traveled to major film festivals, said that he doesn’t believe in making films for a ‘global audience’ and is content catering to the Marathi-speaking audience. He isn’t too fond of the ‘market culture’ at festivals and would rather screen his films at quieter festivals like Rotterdam where one can engage with the audiences constructively. He said that he believes in making earthy films derived from his own life experiences instead of tailoring it for an international audience.
For Peter Van Hoof, programmer of the International Film Festival of Rotterdam, “The festival world is a jungle”. According to him, a film has a lifespan of little more than one year and filmmakers should choose their premieres (world, international, etc.) wisely.