The Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) is 25 years young this year. Its journey has been in step with the forward march of the film industry, growing in volume and adding quality to it every passing year.
Being the oldest international film festival of the country, KIFF has grown from being a solemn event of cinema intellectuals to annual mega celebrations of the masses.
Keeping pace with the size of the silver screen, the demand and splendour of the KIFF has also increased manifold with lakhs and lakhs of cinephiles adding to the footfall at different venues of the event every year.
The Statesman’s 1 November 1995 edition carried a report of a Press Conference held by the then state information and cultural affairs minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who stated that the process of acquiring films from the National Archive had become a cumbersome task. Nandan, according to the former chief minister of the state, would initiate efforts to get the best of world cinema.
The 25 years journey of KIFF is marked with countless milestones. The most significant was the recognition of the film festival by the International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations, Paris (FIAPF), the international authority for film festivals. The event which was earlier confined to the realms of selected intellectuals, however, witnessed a paradigm shift after 2011, becoming the annual gala celebration of the masses.
The festival that was started with films from 40 countries this year is seeing films from 76 countries-almost double in number. With the burgeoning demand, the number of venues has increased from eight in 1995 to 17 this year. In the first year, 16mm films were one of the attractions, while 35mm celluloid films are major highlights of the Silver Jubilee Year this year.
The one commonality between the first and the 25 year is the special focus cinema. German cinema, with a broader spectrum of films this year, is the only common subject in the first and the 25th years of KIFF.
Sujoy Ghosh, a cine buff, who is a student of fine arts said, “In our childhood, the concept of international film festival was more an affair of a particular class of people. The evolution of KIFF over these 25 years has brought one significant change. Now, anyone can get to watch internationally acclaimed films. My friends and I wait for this festival throughout the year, postponing all other plans to manage time for watching films at the festival.”
Sumona Saha, another cinema lover, said, “I have a preference for Indian classics and international cinema. No matter how long I have to wait in lengthy queues, I make it a point not to miss the movies at Nandan. This is the only opportunity in a year when we get to watch movies with international accolades.”
An official of the Information and Cultural Affairs Department, who has a long association with KIFF said, “Considering the footfall and participation of more and more eminent national and international film personalities, the film festival in recent years demands more responsibility in our jobs. With every passing year, the rise in footfall, increased numbers of film screenings, exhibitions are keeping us busier than ever before.”