Jasmila Zbanic’s “Quo Vadis, Aida?,” the Bosnia and Herzegovina entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature category, will open the 25th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).
Mira Nair will deliver the annual G. Aravindan memorial lecture, an event named for the pioneering filmmaker from the south Indian state of Kerala who died in 1991. Auteur Jean-Luc Godard will receive the lifetime achievement award, and participate in an online Q&A.
Along with the Mumbai Film Festival, the International Film Festival of India, Goa, the Dharamshala International Film Festival and the Kolkata International Film Festival, IFFK is one of the most respected film festivals in India. It is organized by the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy on behalf of the cultural department of the government of Kerala.
The festival was forced to move from its usual early December slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. It will now take place in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, Feb. 10-14, followed by mirror festivals in the cities of Ernakulam, Thalassery and Palakkad over the rest of the month.
Though some of the events, especially those involving international participation, will have to take place online, all the festival screenings will be in front of live audiences. India is currently operating at 50% cinema occupancy, though that capacity is set to increase from Feb. 1. IFFK in particular is known for operating at capacity with every screening oversubscribed.
“The idea is that since numbers in each place have to be restricted, we take the films to the film-loving public rather than them having to travel,” the IFFK’s festival director who goes by the single name Kamal, told Variety.
“It was recognized that as the IFFK is such a people-driven festival, the old format would not work,” IFFK artistic director Bina Paul told Variety. “We explored the possibility of an online event, but found that between online education, webinars and innumerable options of watching films online, a fatigue had set in.”
The festival also found that many filmmakers and sales agents were reluctant to share films for online screenings, due to piracy concerns.
IFFK will will feature 95 films in five cinemas and some 2,000 registered delegates in each city. Strict COVID-19 protocols will be followed, including an antigen test before the collection of a delegate card. All cinemas will be fumigated before each screening and seats have to be reserved in advance. The state health department, led by Health Minister K.K. Shylaja, is supporting the festival and will be on standby during screenings.
The festival has a specialized competition for films from Asia, Africa and Latin America. The international jury consists of filmmaker Kim Hong Jong (Korea), filmmaker Newton Aduaka (Nigeria), producer Anomaa Rajakaruna (Sri Lanka), critic and film programmer Philip Cheah (Singapore) and filmmaker Anup Singh (India). The jury will watch the films online.
IFFK is also known for its showcase of Malayalam-language cinema, native to Kerala. Selected films are given a grant, and the festival supports the travel of these films around the world. This year’s selection includes Indian Oscar contender “Jallikattu” filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery’s next, “Churuli,” and “Sexy Durga” director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Busan title “A’hr.”
This year, the festival will pay homage to recently deceased film personalities: last year’s lifetime achievement award winner, Argentine filmmaker Fernando Solanas; Korea’s Kim Ki Duk; Indian cinematographer Ramachandra Babu; and Indian actor Soumitra Chatterjee.