Mumbai film fest to celebrate real spirit of cinema (Curtain-raiser)

Mumbai, Oct 16 (IANS) With over 200 films across nine sections from over 65 countries and an impressive lineup of academic events - the 15th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) starting Thursday promises to not just entertain movie aficionados but celebrates the true spirit of cinema as well.

Critically-acclaimed Hollywood fictional-drama "The Butler" by Lee Daniels will open the eight-day fest, which is being organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI). Bill Condon's dramatic-thriller "The Fifth Estate" will bring the curtains down on the fest Oct 24.

From Academy Award-nominated Australian drama "The Rocket" to French drama "The Past" to critically-acclaimed classics such as "Z" and much more, the fest this year will entertain movie buffs with handpicked films from across the world.

In addition to competition sections such as the International Competition, Celebrate Age and Dimension Mumbai, the fest will introduce new initiatives such as Filmy Room and Indian Project Room as part of Mumbai Film Mart.

"This year's biggest attraction will be the Mumbai Film Mart, which aims to support blossoming films and filmmakers by bringing them under one roof. It will be a great networking opportunity as we are expecting delegates from French, Spanish, Taiwan and even Canadian industries," Srinivasan Narayanan, director, Mumbai Film Festival, told IANS.

"Our new initiatives such as India Project Room will help more international festival programmers and buyers to easily access quality Indian films thereby opening up more visibility and markets for Indian cinema. In essence, it will help aspiring filmmakers find co-producers or finishing funds for their films," he added.

Narayanan added that the three pillars of the fest this year will be - "creative, academic events and business of cinema".

With eminent film personalities such as director Bruce Beresford, French actress Nathalie Baye, Japanese actor-director Masato Harada and Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, along with acclaimed Indian actress Konkona Sensharma as jury members on competition segments such as International Competition, India Gold 2013 and Dimension Mumbai, the fest hopes to keep the competitiveness spirit alive amongst filmmakers with a total prize money worth $220,000.

While the International Competition section will feature works of first time filmmakers, India Gold 2013 will present the opportunity for 12 Indian filmmakers to showcase their talent.

Conceived by Jaya Bachchan, Dimensions Mumbai is a platform for the creative minds of Mumbai under the age of 25 to put to test their filmmaking skills on any aspect of the city. It has received over 100 entries.

In accordance to the celebration of true spirit of cinema, the fest will throw spotlight on French and Cambodian cinema, while focusing on the blossoming film movement in Afghanistan.

For their contribution to world cinema, French filmmaker Costa-Gavras along with Indian actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan will be conferred with lifetime achievement awards here.

Another highlight of the fest will be the screening of several classics such as "The Floorwalker", "Blackmail" and "The King Comedy" under Restored Classics section, to create awareness about restoring of films.

The festival will also pay homage to late Indian filmmakers Yash Chopra, Rituparno Ghosh and actor Pran.

This year, festival organisers hope to have an increase in the footfalls vis-a-vis last year.

"While we had 4,500 odd film enthusiasts in participation last year, this time we hope to cross 6,000. This festival is for the youngsters of this country, and I hope to see the auditoriums filled with as many youngsters as possible," added Narayanan.

An additional highlight of the event will be an activity called Mumbai Young Critics, which will groom young college students of Mumbai on critiquing. Noted German film critic Daniel Kothenschulte will take the class.

Other activities include panel discussion by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, masterclasses by filmmaker Bruce Beresford, Editor Jill Billcock and special question and answer session with Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi and French filmmaker Leos Carax.