Archive for September 2, 2014

First things first, we love Mumbai Film Festival, especially the way they have revamped it in the last few years. They get the best films from all all the top fests of the world. This year the fest seems to be in trouble because of sponsors. As of now, they fest is trying to gather fund via crowd funding. Some of us have already contributed as we want to see the fest alive and kicking. We hope that you do contribute too. Click here to go to make your contribution. If you have enjoyed films at MFF in last few years, we hope you will do your bit. This city needs a film fest.

Once you are done with your contribution, let’s move ahead. The fest gets the best films from across the world but there’s a whole lot scope for improvement. Here’s why and how.

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“Bhala hua mori gagri phooti, main paniya bharan se chhooti re”

 (Thank God my earthen pot got shattered. Spares me the job of filling water in it.)

Am sure most members of Mumbai Film Festival organizing committee felt like dancing to this old sufi qawwaali when this year’s festival got called off.

Of course it’s the best festival we have in terms of film selection and venues (as compared to the horribly inadequate auditoriums of Siri Fort in Delhi for OSIAN or sarkaari-babu horror story that IFFI-Goa is where one year old films which have already released in theatres are “premiered”) but still, it’s an open secret that MAMI/MFF is way behind in terms of professionalism when it comes to organizing.

Every year, like Tim Robbin’s Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption, film fans wade through piles of organizational shit to reach the freedom of festival movie-watching experience. It’s the most awaited annual event on a movie-buff’s calendar in India (film buffs fly down from various cities to attend it) and we all have that tacky-yellow sabzi-jhola (with MAMI logo on it) full of memories from the festival.

But nostalgia can be deceptive at times…making us forget the pains we took, thanks to the shortsightedness of the fest organizers in the last few years. And that’s why, when the news came of this year’s festival being called off, the first wave of reactions was sweet nostalgia with a cold sigh. People talking about the films they saw at the fest and friendships they made over the years. Now that, in my opinion, is a totally wrong reaction.

The valid reactions are:

  1. HOW FUCKING INEFFICIENT one has to be to bring a successfully running festival in the movie-capital of the biggest movie-consuming nation of the planet to an abrupt halt?
  2. HOW ABSOLUTELY OUTDATED one has to be to just give it up and not even try raising funds when one corporate has walked away, and just announce that festival is not happening this year? And…
  3. HOW FUCKING ARROGANT one has to be to not allow donations less than INR 10K for saving the festival? (OK, this has changed. Now they have cut it down to 5K and have given their reasons why and how)

Let’s analyze these three reactions in detail. Because therein lies the story of MAMI’s near-death-experience this year. And we are not even sure if it will survive, and if it does, then for how long.

HOW FUCKING INEFFICIENT:

The festival started in 1997 and barring a couple of years, it took place every year with changing venues inside Bombay. It manages to get a great selection of films and international filmmakers for master classes or discussions or just an ‘exotic holiday’ to India and I have rarely seen (in the last 6-7 years) a single show of even a half-way decent film going empty. There are always long queues, and especially for big ticket films (even hardcore art-house like Bela Tarr’s Turin Horse), people wait for 2-3 hours in the queue to get in. The point being – there is no reason this festival can’t be sold to the corporate or film fraternity for an annual contribution of just INR 5 Crores. But every year, the news of it running into cash crunch raises its head and we wonder how random engineering colleges manage to sell their annual fests for huge budgets year after year, while this film festival (with names like Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap in trustees) runs out of sponsors regularly.

The difference, I think, lies in the lack of will. The festival is running in auto-pilot mode for a long time. With the exception of Festival Director (Mr. Srinivasan Narayan), who has always been hands-on and humble in trouble-shooting during the festival, the rest of the team is comprised of people who don’t want to learn anything from the world around or take the festival to the next level. Pure fossils or morons. You just have to attend some of the events planned and executed by them to realise they really have no clue – from opening ceremony to film/filmmakers introduction by college kids who have no clue about the film or the filmmaker, press conferences to masterclass to closing ceremony – almost every event embarrasses you. I know many friends who have stepped in and taken charge of the events before embarrassing the filmmaker any further.

As the rumor is doing the rounds – a very big corporate house was willing to step in and take over the festival reins but some of the festival’s members  couldn’t put together a PPT pitch in time and the deal fell through.

Yup, you read that right. The festival team was late on the PPT and hence we are not having our festival this year. I am hoping it’s not true and is just a rumour, but it brings me to…

HOW ABSOLUTELY OUTDATED:

The news of festival shutting came in at around 7 in the evening. By 8 pm, some of us had started tweeting individually that we will be happy to contribute money to save the festival. By 10 pm, Vivek Kajaria (producer of Fandry) started putting together a collaborative effort and tagging other producers, people with influence in the industry to contribute. Within 3 days, over INR 1.5 Crores were raised (thanks to contributions by Manish Mundra (producer of Ankhon Dekhi), Anand Mahindra (CMD of Mahindra Group), and Rajkumar Hirani-VVC-Anupama Chopra combine). All of this, just by people coming together.

And what does MAMI team do when faced with such a situation? Just nothing. They didn’t even make an announcement or appeal for help. Just let the news out through back channels that fest won’t happen. In this age, when kids are trying to crowd-source money even for their education and holidays, a worthy cause like MFF could have easily done that. But they didn’t. Mostly because they are a bunch of outdated people with no idea where the world has moved to in the last 17 years.

It seems even the ideas are crowd funded for the festival. Once the word spread, people were willing to contribute, and after then the MFF team has put together a page with all the details. Woah! That’s unheard of. You realise what I am talking.

And that’s why it’s difficult to get sponsors. Because they don’t how to create properties that can sell –  No star attendance, not even representation of respected filmmakers of the industry, no hyped event, so the press coverage is abysmal, and so no sponsors. Their film mart is a joke where filmmakers have been refunded money because nobody worthy enough came to see and buy the films. Learn it from NFDC Film Bazaar how they have built it up in the last few years. Learn from film fests across the world. Create properties, create your usp, create one thing that nobody has, make it attractive for the sponsors. why is it such a difficult thing to do?

In the last few years, they have been able to built only one property – the competition for under 25 filmmakers. But that’s limited in its reach. The topic is Mumbai centric, entries are only from mumbai. why so? Make it wide. Open it. You might discover the top best U-25 filmmaking talent of the country. And few years later when they make their feature,  people will say he was discovered at MFF. That’s how film fests brands are built worldwide. They discover the talent, nurture them and put them on the world map. why so myopic?

Once in a while they manage to get some good filmmaking talent from world cinema. But then, that’s it. No filmmaking event or hype around it. And mostly there are those who have past their prime and have nothing new to offer. Why will the sponsors come? Aim for one big filmmaker, just one to start with – make an event around him. Have a screening of his film with a masterclass, get a desi filmmaker who knows his films, put two of them together, make it the big attraction of the fest. What attraction MFF has now for sponsors? Nothing. Great films? Yes. Badly organised? Yes, Yes, Yes!

Also, moving the fest to South Mumbai is a terrible, terrible idea. You don’t cut off ties with your own industry. When the industry is in suburbs, all your filmmaking talent is in suburbs, nobody except the film buffs are going all the way to the other planet to watch films. You need the industry, they don’t need you. They are happily making bollywood films which makes shitload of money and have no connect with MFF, so no contribution either. Make MFF attractive to them as well. Don’t sell out, but there are ways to involve them. Just for the sake, here’s an idea – say sneak preview of 10 mins or 30 mins of RajKumar Hirani’s PK or any such one of the most anticipated films of the year. You will see how the media and sponsors will fall in line. There are million ideas to create that you will get it going. Learn from the ComiCons and CinemaCons of the world. And get the fossils out who are completely useless. The world is moving at the speed of light-years.

Another great proof that MFF team is full of inefficient, vile, completely out-of-touch-with-the-times nutjobs – look no further than Rajesh Kumar Singh, a man responsible for selecting films for the festival. A bitter, homophobic, misogynistic, censorship-loving guy who MFF refuses to let go of. Here’s his review of SLB’s Ramleela, or his open letter to Aamir Khan here. And the best – here‘s his call to people all over to protest against Ramleela. Why? Because “Had Sanjay Leela Bhansali abused prophet Mohammed and Quran, like what he has done to Ram and ‘Ramleela’, Islamists would have beheaded him”. There’s no end to his priceless gems. Google, you will be amazed. These are just the tip of the gigantic moronic iceberg.

 HOW FUCKING ARROGANT:

So the instant appeal to #SaveMFF helped and people started trying to find ways to collect money. Seeing this reluctance of people to let go of the festival easily, MFF started accepting money. INR 1.5 Crores came via 3 individual donations, and then MFF put up this page.

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Yes, look at it closely to see the mission statement, how much money they need, why they need it, and how they plan to spend it. Also see closely if you can find any rewards (as is the norm nowadays for even smallest of contributions to indie film projects – eg. “A shoutout on twitter for contributing Rs. 100 for our film”) on the page for giving money to MFF. And if you look real close, you will find a big bold lettered ‘thanks’ too. NOTHING. MFF just wants your money jaise ki uska haque hai.

(As I write this, the page has been updated with a 20-second video of festival director’s appeal and an FAQ, so may be they are still putting together this section of rewards and thank-yous and other logistics. But still, it’s just another symptom of the problem – they have either no clue or take things for granted or both.)

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Also, as you go to the next page to contribute, you realize they are taking contributions of only INR 10K or more. Why? (Now they have cut it down to 5K. FAQ says because time is less.) Should we ask why time is less? Whose fault it is? And this random arbitrary figure of 10K is a huge hindrance for people who would want to contribute 2K or 5K (fairly big numbers for somebody contributing in “such little time”.) Yet again, arbitrary people running a show with no regard for the viewers, who now want to become stakeholders too.

This was a great opportunity, this is a great opportunity – to make it a festival of the viewers, to involve us in raising funds and (maybe) curating the festival too. (We can chuck modesty and say with full confidence that we follow world cinema very closely and can suggest great hidden films from around the world without even being sent to big festivals on MFF money like Mr. Rajesh Kumar Singh. And nobody has covered MFF like we have done in the last few years. Here’s some proof.) But, if MFF wants my 10K, without even thanking me for it, at least show me some hope that things will improve, the outdated people and systems will be thrown out, the veil of vagueness about funding and expenditure will disappear.

Give us some stake and say in the festival, and see how more people will join happily. For starters, check out TIFF website and how many kinds of donations they allow and in how many ways they let the viewer interact with the festival. You got the films, that’s great, now get everything else sorted. It’s already too late. People won’t contribute every year if you guys remain lazy morons who can’t sell a film fest to sponsors.

All the best.

 – Nicolas Bourbaki

(PS: Now that my gyaan is done, let me make my contribution for MFF.)