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Friday, January 18, 2013

Ladakh, Dharamshala, Gorakhpur, Patna: New hot nodes of the film festival circuit

-- By Anindita Datta Choudhury in The Economic Times

Glam queen Cannes was not built in a day . Neither will Dharamshala be as it aspires to be a shining dot in the map of the movie buff. But the sleepy Himachal town is taking the much-needed baby steps, and the organisers of the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) hope their efforts will bring about a sea change in how the world - tinsel or tell-tale - views their hometown . Well, that' a piece of very good news for Indian cinephiles.

But the better news is that a slew of Indian towns and tier-II cities are taking the same route, setting up their own film festivals, inviting legends of world cinema to tour their sleepy alleys, and hoping that someday the film festival circuit will talk about Leh, Patna or Gorakhpur with the same excitement as they now mention Locarno, Sundance or Tribeca .


Filmmaker couple Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam had been planning to hold an international film festival in their hometown Dharamshala for years , but things finally came together last November . The two BBCdocumentarians had produced the first Tibetan feature film under their independent banner , White Crane Films.

"We are originally from Dharamashala and wanted to give back the town something," says Sarin. She managed to get about 25 sponsors and partners for the festival. Volunteers worked round the clock to make DIFF a success.

Right from painting "carrier" autorickshaws to blackening the windows of the screening theatre - they did it all.

Says Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker, who gave four other international festivals a miss just to be in Dharamshala for the screening of his muchacclaimed film , Five Broken Cameras: "This is my first visit to India and I have been to no other city except Dharamshala. I had heard so much about the place that I couldn't resist myself," says Davidi.


Melvin Williams of Monasse Films , director of Ladakh International Film Festival (LIFF), says exotic locations are best suited for film festivals.

"Cannes was just a small riverside town . And look what it is now ! We organised the first film festival on the roof of the world. It was both challenging and exciting," says Williams, who managed to get filmmaker Shyam Benegal on board as the chairperson besides Shekhar Kapur, Vishal Bharadwaj, Govind Nihalani and Mike Pandey as patrons.

Held at an altitude of 11,562 meters, the LIFF is the 'highest' of its kind festival in the world. While the venue was a big crowd puller, the challenges Williams had to face were innumerable.

"Infrastructure-wise it was a nightmare. Airfares skyrocketed when we announced the festival. But the biggest challenge was to get our guests acclimatised to the high altitude," says Williams and adds that it took people two days to acclimatise to the altitude. The Army and choppers were on standby in case anyone got sick, he says.

(courtesy: The Economic Times)

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