IFFK 2018: Festival director Bina Paul on festival lineup, selection process, and fond memories from past years

Neelima Menon

Dec 11, 2018 10:36:03 IST

It was almost certain that the (International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) would not happen this year... but then it did. And it is an exciting time in Kerala’s capital city. At the centre of all the action is Bina Paul, a celebrated film editor and festival director, IFFK. A quick chat with her reveals some of the action behind the scenes...

A still from the International Film Festival of Kerala 2018. Twitter

A still from the International Film Festival of Kerala 2018. Twitter

What is the selection process?

We get a lot of entries for each segment. Some are seen, some are recommended. I take care of the curated section. For the world cinema segment, we get about 500 film entries, which we filter according to what the audience like and curation.

Do you have to watch every film that finds a place at the festival?

Not really. But each film has been seen by somebody. Of course, I do watch a major chunk of it too. We are not a festival of festivals. We also focus on small, unknown, content rich films, not just the ones showcased at Cannes, as we are confident about the audience’s tastes. IFFK programming is appreciated for that.

This time, there is a special segment - a tribute to the human spirit.

It’s a tribute to the brave hearts who have shown us the real meaning of humanity. There is a film on Nelson Mandela, commemorating his 100th birth anniversary, a long interview with the Pope, a film on the dangers of climate change starring Leonardo Dicaprio — all films celebrate the indomitable human spirit.

Ingmar Bergman and Majid Majidi are the other interesting names mentioned in the list.

Ingmar Bergman, since this year marks his centenary. The highlight will be Bergman: A Year in a Life, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Jane Magnusson, that directs an unflinching gaze at the man behind the films, a national hero. There will also be a screening of one of his TV series, something unheard of during that time. Majidi is a Kerala favourite. I think his Children of Heaven is one of the most loved films at the IFFK. Since he is also the chairman of the international competition category, we thought of taking this opportunity to confer on him a lifetime achievement award.

Tell us about the pre-production stages of IFFK. How long does it take to put it all together?

Usually, we start by April-May. We start contacting people, having discussions about the selection process, watch films. Around August this year, the IFFK was called off, so we had stopped working on it. We have to line up the jury, important guests. It’s a lot of work.

In the 'Malayalam Today' section, is there a specification to have a good balance of mainstream and offbeat cinema?

I don’t think we are going with any such specifications. This is the 'Panorama of Malayalam' cinema, and we have picked very small films and films that did well at the box office. It’s not just about the immediate films. We are looking at content, state, milieu, technique. I’m aware that what we include and exclude at the IFFK will make a statement. In fact, films picked by the IFFK have entered cinematic history, not really in a grandiose way, but for its quality. We had earlier programmed the Iranian film called The Cow, which was banned in Iran but later, we showed it to Cannes. International programmers talk about IFFK and we know it’s important to make a narrative about choice.

Mayaanadhi and Parava are interesting choices in the 'Malayalam Today' section...

Both are very notable films. Parava is a very rooted film and it’s impossible to ignore a film like that. It might not go to Berlin as nobody will understand a film like that but here, it should be screened. It’s about films that are rooted in the culture and aesthetics of our state. We have a selection committee for that. The aim is to provide a view of Malayalam cinema, the best of contemporary times.

There is a tribute to Lenin Rajendran too. What makes him special?

He has a body of work that is radical and it’s interesting how he chose the middle ground in making popular cinema.

What is your average day at the IFFK?

Just running around. Making sure that filmmakers are taken care of. Discussions are in full swing. I am very particular that film festivals should also be an avenue for interactions and creative debates.

What is your best memory of IFFK so far?

I like to watch audience reactions, talk to them when they come out of the screenings. Sharing the film with them is very important to me. We have invested so much time in deciding whether a film should be there or not, so when a film is appreciated, I really enjoy that. I have fond memories of filmmakers who had their first screening at IFFK and how they later went on to be important names in Indian cinema. That’s a great feeling.

Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 15:07:20 IST