Editor's note: Beginning Tuesday, 22 November 2016, Firstpost will carry Rupleena Bose's daily dispatches from the ongoing International Film Festival of India, in Goa
A few years ago, I remember being at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and thinking if there was a city I could wish to live in, it would have to be Edinburgh since no other place seemed so alive during those fringe days. My fantastical desire to live forever in Edinburgh was immediately questioned by a local who had grown up in the city. "That is precisely the problem," he had said. "Everyone who comes during this one month in August thinks the Festival is the city. If they lived here the whole year, they will probably be drowned in the quiet existence of this town." I didn’t understand what he meant and shrugged off his words.
Until now. For 10 days, the International Film Festival of India (Iffi) houses itself in venues across Panjim and transforms parts of Goa. I have been coming to the film festival for many years now when films I have worked on have showed here. But this time the perspective was different since I now live in a quiet village in North Goa and Panjim is almost as exciting as a big city taken over by people bound together by cinema.
Today was the first day at Iffi and I braved crowds (a pleasant change from the silence of Goa afternoons) to reach the festival in pursuit of good world cinema. Kerala is known to be the most film literate state of India; personally I too have eavesdropped the local tea-shop evenings full of intense and radical discussions on the contemporary documentary scene or the best representations of Japanese horror. Goa was never that, but this time — maybe because of my more receptive status as local resident — the queue to buy tickets was an experience in understanding film culture in the state. Mariona and her husband had come from Corona village armed with their delegate passes to buy tickets for the day. As a rule, tickets can only be bought one day at a time, throwing all my grand scheduling plans in disarray.
"Instead, this time it has increased availability," Mariona told me. Mariona must be about 60 years old and was found buying tickets for the South Korean horror Office (South Korea being the country in focus at Iffi this year). They had taken changed buses from Mapusa and reached Panjim with their movie list. With them in the queue before me I didn’t need to see the schedule. "You must watch the South Korean section," they told me, and I obliged by buying tickets for Tunnel. When I told them I was going to watch Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, they reminded me not to miss Abbas Kiarostami’s unusual love story set in Tokyo, Like Someone in Love.
Behind us at the queue were a few young students from a media institute in Pune; they had tried to book tickets online but could not complete the process, hence were lining up for the repeat show of Polish great Andrej Wajda’s last film AfterImage. They were disappointed to hear that it was sold out and wondered aloud if the films would ever on come Netflix which would ease their hunger for world cinema. They decided to go in search of a cyber café so that they could plan their next day and avoid the trip back to Inox where tickets were sold. Mariona and I smiled, we were allies in the big secret, the secret of the elusive internet connection in Goa. We got our tickets and hoped to meet again for one of the films. Mariona and her husband decide to walk the stretch of MG Road with me admiring the endless activity of boards, posters, sidewalk stalls which had sprung up. The sun was about to set and it seemed like a perfect time to have a good old cutlet near the corner shop at Miramar before the show. They were determined to watch Filipino director Lav Diaz’s 8-hour film A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery which I was still mustering up courage for. Just as we reached Miramar, the stage was getting ready for the open-air screenings. I remembered my neighbour mentioning she wanted to watch Nagraj Manjule’s popular Marathi film Sairat under the starlit sky by the sea.
I had spent a frustrating day trying to find internet speed to upload video stories, but suddenly, in that orange evening light everything seemed perfect: there was a film to watch and there were 10 more days of cinema from all across. Tomorrow would be yet another exciting day with three films to watch and introspect on. Now that the quiet city has gone into hiding, one must admit the sea and cinema make an ideal combination.
The writer is Assistant Professor at the department of English at Sri Venkateswara College