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Film Festivals Will Continue To Thrive Even As Online Market Grows, Say DIFF Founders

As the Dharamshala International Film Festival turns six, the founders explain that running a festival feels like mounting a major expedition.

Kriti Tulsiani |

Updated:November 4, 2017, 1:22 AM IST
In its sixth edition, Dharamshala International Film Festival 2017, founded by filmmakers and long-time Dharamshala residents Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, brings to the foothills of Himalayas a line-up of alluring feature narratives, shorts and documentaries among others.

As the festival turns six, the founders explain that running a festival feels like mounting a major expedition. “There are so many different aspects to take care of: from the fun part of viewing and selecting films to the more challenging aspects like venue logistics, guest relations, design and print collaterals, media liaison and community outreach.”


According to them, the most difficult issue each year is raising funds. "Although DIFF has successfully established itself as one of India’s foremost independent film festivals, this has not translated into a more reliable and long-term source of funding,” they share.

One might think that a metropolitan city would have attracted more audience and more funds, but both Ritu and Tenzing are of the view that their aim, when they started out, was to do something for their local community. “We chose Dharamshala as the location for the film festival because we live here and this is our hometown. Of course, a similar festival in a large metro would attract more footfalls and even more sponsorship but that is not the aim of DIFF.”

In the age of Netflix, Hotstar and YouTube among others, it's amusing to see the film festivals holding their own. To this, the founders say, “Films have always been about being a shared experience in a darkened cinema hall. The magic of watching a movie on a large screen will never go away."

“Filmmakers, at heart, want to screen their films in a theatre. So, even as online delivery of films grows, film festivals will continue to thrive,” they add.

Given that they’re filmmakers themselves, have they observed any particular changes in the narratives of cinema? “We have seen an exciting growth of Indian indie films over the years and we have been showcasing some of the best of these films.”

“The films are bold and innovative in their style and approach, and in terms of diversity and quality, they are really impressive. The festival has shown us that there is an audience for such films in India who are willing to travel long distances to see them.”


On being asked about the criteria while shortlisting the films, they state, “The brief we set for ourselves when we started was simple: to programme films that we loved and felt were important to share with an audience. Genre, style, subject matter…none of these matter. The only thing that matters is that the films have heart and a strong authorial vision.”

Elaborating on how they sort international and local participation, they say, “This is a tough decision and is dependent on many factors. Our choice of international films, e.g., is influenced by the affordability of screening fees, whether the director can attend or not, and if so, whether we can raise funds to bring them. Having the filmmakers come to DIFF to present their films is an important aspect every year, we do try and make sure that we have some international filmmakers present along with their Indian counterparts.”

The 4 day line-up includes attractions for cinegoers of different genres- from feature narratives like Newton, Turup, The Hungry, What Will People Say, White Sun, Mukti Bhawan, Ralang Road to feature documentaries like Abu, Machines, Cameraperson to Children’s films like Heidi and Revolting Rhymes.

While Adil Hussain presented his critically acclaimed film Mukti Bhawan on the opening day, Konkona Sen Sharma will present her directorial debut A Death In The Gunj, on Saturday. Among international filmmakers, Israeli filmmaker Yaniv Berman (Land Of the Little People), Japanese director Yoshinori Sato (Her Mother) and Mano Khalil (The Swallow) are accompanying their respective films.

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