The Mumbai Academy of Moving Images or MAMI (as it is better known to the film fraternity across the world) began its annual Mumbai Film Festival on Thursday, October 13, in Mumbai. The festival, which is in its 13th year, opened with Sony Pictures' Brad Pitt starrer Money Ball.
Over the years, the MAMI festival has only gotten bigger, thanks to Reliance Entertainment taking over and running the show three years ago. This is the only film festival in India which is run by a corporate entertainment firm. Thanks to Reliance Entertainment, MAMI has been able to attract better films and filmmakers to the festival.
Srinivasan Naryanan, Festival Director, 13th Mumbai Film Festival says: "Currently it's a Reliance Entertainment initiative, and we are currently in the look out for a title sponsor for MAMI."
What's different this year at MAMI is that there is a separate Mumbai Film Mart (MFM) that has been established on a large scale. The film mart will be held from October 15 to 17 and will see buyers, investors and sales agents from non-traditional markets such as France, China, Korea, Japan, Europe, Indonesia and Taiwan, among others from the United States, Germany and the Indian film industry reaching out to each other.
It will be the country's first film festival to host roughly 40 international movie buyers. The hope is that the MFM initiative will help big and small producers tap into traditional and non-traditional markets.
Some of the big sales agents and buyers attending the event are Wild Bunch (France), IM Global (US), Nikkatsu (Japan), The Match Factory (Germany), Happinet Corporation (Japan), Rapid Eye(Germany), Wide Management (France), 1 Production Film (Taiwan), Showbox (Korea), Pioniwa (Japan), Creative Screen Associates (UK) and Danish Film Institute (Denmark).
"Last year, we had five buyers, but there was huge interest in understanding the Indian market," says Naryanan. This year Indian distributors and studios such as Eros, UTV Motion Pictures, Yashraj, Big Pictures, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures and Balaji have shown inclination to participate in the film mart.
It is understood that films like Shah Rukh's Ra.One
and Balaji Motion Pictures Shor in the City
are looking to sell their international rights.
Only a few weeks ago Rajkumar Hirani's blockbuster film 3 Idiots
was released in Hong Kong and has reportedly done business worth Rs 90 lakh in two weeks. Bollywood films are quite a craze in the South East Asian market.
Earlier, audiences abroad watched Indian Bollywood films on home videos but now the screens are opening up for theatrical releases. In fact, Ra.One
will be released in Germany, South Korea and Taiwan simultaneously with its London and Mumbai premieres. Prior to that, SRK's My Name Is Khan
was released in non-traditional markets like Taiwan, Korea, Germany, France, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Poland, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and Belgium by Fox Search Lights. Most large Indian film studios are now keenly looking at developing the non traditional foreign markets for Indian cinema.
Small and independent filmmakers will also be able to pitch their products to international buyers at MFM. Thirty five Indie filmmakers have already registered with the film mart.
MAMI's structure is unique among film festivals in India. Many film festivals in India, including the prominent International Film Festival of India (IFFI), are government initiatives.
Utpal Borpujari, a film critique and a regular at film festivals across the country says, "Ever since Reliance Entertainment has taken over the task of conducting MAMI, the festival has gained global recognition and has been able to bring down big names and films from across the world for this festival."
"On the other hand it's a good branding exercise for Reliance Entertainment as well," he said.
This year the festival will screen over 200 films from 50 countries over a period of one week (October 13-20). Lars Von Trier's Melancholia is one among the around 200 films to be screened at the Festival. George Clooney's The Ides of March
, which recently opened the 68th Venice International Film Festival, will also be screened. A Retrospective of Jury President Hugh Hudson's works will be presented including Revolution Revisited
and I Dreamed of Africa
According to Borpujari, Reliance initiative is a good beginning and a lesson for the other film festivals in India including IFFI. Internationally, film festivals are very professionally organised. "The film mart at Cannes is spread across 30,000-40,000 sq feet of space and here is where a lot of business takes place," says Borpujari, who has attended international festivals.
In India, the issue has largely been that of funding film festivals. It is understood from the film fraternity that the issue of funding has been bothering policy makers and the possibility of privatising or closing down the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) are being debated. There have been discussions on structuring a lasting public-private partnership in view of declining government financial support to film festivals such as IFFI.
Sources indicated that the investment in conducting IFFI is about Rs 7 crore, and as a result top films do not attend the festival. The top film makers both in India and abroad are not motivated to participate in the festival due to non- availability of adequate financial incentives and the absence of a robust and lucrative film market. The investment in festivals is largely towards getting the films to be screened and flying down and hosting the guests during the festival.
MAMI is understood to be conducted with a little over half the investment of IFFI and yet has been able to get global recognition and get the best of the films to the festival. Naryanan says that one third of the investment is earmarked for awards.
Rajeev Kumar Jain, a civil service officer in his Masters Thesis paper on Cultural and Commercial aspects of film festivals-The case of International Film Festival of India in 2006 says: "Film festivals if run on corporate lines without sacrificing the crucial objectives of promoting national cultures can be made profitable. The need is to strategise and have a long-term vision and evolve partnerships that can prove to be mutually profitable." Jain served in the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) during the 90s and was involved with organising the IFFI. But, as filmmakers and the Indian film fraternity say nothing has changed. Most film festivals are still conducted by and for people who love to make films and watch films. Festivals in India are largely an initiative to bring films of the industry together on one platform.
Maybe the Government and policy makers can learn a thing or two about how to conduct film festivals from MAMI.
Finally, the 13th MFF will pay tribute to cinematic legends Shammi Kapoor, M.F.Hussain and Mani Kaul with a special screening of their works. Noted poet, lyricist, script writer and director Gulzar will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Mumbai Film Festival.