US-Iran stars to power India's international film fest

Panaji, Nov 19 (IANS) One cannot look for a better sign of a thaw between US-Iran bilateral relations when powerhouse American actress Susan Sarandon and acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi share stage. The inaugural ceremony of the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here Wednesday was the venue for the welcome augury.

Making an international bang is just the kind of message that festival director Shankar Mohan claims the organisers are keen on making.

Addressing the curtain-raiser press conference at the stately Macquinez palace in Panaji, Mohan, a union ministry of information and broadcasting official, said the invitation to the Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon was part of the plan to up the international profile of the festival.

"We have had Indian film stars at the inauguration ceremony, but it was a conscious decision to invite Susan Sarandon. She is an international star and this is an international event," Mohan said.

He also said that the international stature of the festival was gaining in ground and that several films that have been screened and have won accolades at the Goa festival have gone on to win the coveted Academy awards.

"We have been trying to get films nominated for the Oscars so that we get to see them first here," Mohan said, pointing to films like "Life of Pi" and "The Artist", which made a splash in Goa before going on to win the Oscar.

Nearly 326 films from 76 countries will be screened spread over 11 days at the IFFI this year.

While usual sections like the Indian Panorama, Country Focus and other aspects of the festival have been retained. But there are enough indications to show, that the festival organisers appear to be pushing the risque envelope.

A special section for the 44th edition of the festival is dedicated to poets, lovers and courtesans, which traces the musical journey of India cinema, through films which are dedicated to the emotional, sometimes tragic triad.

One of the best known exponents of 'New Wave Czech Cinema', Jiri Menzel will also receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at IFFI this year. Menzel's film "Don Juans" will also open the festival Wednesday.

Waheeda Rehman will also be honoured with the first Centenary Award for the Indian Film personality.

He also said that, "as digital cinema was gaining in stature as compared to cinema produced in the analogue format and that 80 percent of the films screened at the festival were recorded in analogue format. IFFI this year would see lot of digitally acclaimed films."

However, even as organisers, which includes both the Directorate of Film Festivals and Goa government's Entertainment Society of Goa, begin to roll out the red carpet for the event, there is much ill that continues to stand out as eye-sores despite the best attempts to cosmeticize the main venue.

A steady drip of sewage from the washrooms of the glittering festival venue flows into an open sewer outside the wall -- certainly not a pleasant spectacle for a festival which promises visual splendour.