As part of the festival, there will be interactions with filmmakers, and Prakash Belawadi will be in conversation with Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlunda
The Bengaluru International Short Film Festival (BISFF) will be held online from August 13 to 16. The festival, which turns 10 this year, is being held for the first time after it was approved as an Academy Awards Short Films Qualifying Festival earlier in 2020. While films and events will be available on the festival website, films from the Indian competition section will also be broadcast on Shorts TV.
Founder and festival director Anand Varadaraj spoke to The Hindu MetroPlus about what is on offer at this year’s festival, what the Oscar accreditation means for filmmakers, and the challenges of holding the event online.
Can you tell us a little bit about what is in store at this year’s festival?
This year, we received over 3,000 submissions and entries from around 85 countries. There are five competition sections in the festival: international, Indian, animation, Karnataka, and a special section called Let’s Include that focuses on physical disability and gender diversity. Each section has about 15 to 16 films competing.
We also have non-competition sections in which films from across the globe will be shown. Plus, we have a special package of German films curated by Goethe Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, Indian films from the last three years selected by Mumbai-based Pocket Films and a special section from Kerala by the Women and Cinema Collective.
This is the first time the festival is being held post the Oscar accreditation. Has there been a difference in the type of films or quality of submissions the festival has received?
The quality of the films submitted was pretty high. There are so many competitions across the globe, I think even filmmakers find it difficult deciding on all the ones to apply to. So, a lot of filmmakers, who are confident and have been doing short films for a while, focus on festivals, which have some kind of accreditation.
From this year, because we have that, the quality of submissions has gone up. That is a big thing because when the quality of a festival increases, it helps other filmmakers watch those films and improve their craft.
And it is a big opportunity. The winners in the international and Indian competition section go out as a nomination from our festival. There are several festivals which have the Oscar accreditation. So, the BISFF winners’ films get into that much-smaller pool to compete as opposed to the Academy looking at thousands of films.
Nearly all film festivals have had to move online owing to the current situation. What have the challenges been in doing so?
One thing is that we are a non-techie group. We have always run the festival in theatres and screening spaces. So, we had to update ourselves and we had to learn from other festivals: what they have done, where they got hit etc. so that we don’t make the same mistakes. Also, a big challenge is that there are no sponsors, obviously because nobody is doing well. We had to find the best and cheapest way to put it up online. We are also trying to raise funds so that we can support a non-profit, Vidya Niketan. People can donate via the BISFF website. We will also take one part of it and share it with the filmmakers who win.
There have also been a lot of plus points. We were able to reach out to filmmakers and producers without having to get them to Bengaluru. For example, the jury for the international section has Iranian actor Afsaneh Pakroo and Hollywood producer Kenneth Atchity. For the Indian section, we have Vikramaditya Motwane and Karthik Subbaraj. We could get judges from across India and the globe.
We are also doing online conversations with filmmakers during the festival. The audience can watch the film, join the conversation and ask questions directly. We have given an option where people can leave a comment on the same page after watching the film and the filmmaker can reply there itself.
What are some of the other events being held?
There will be a talk by Nikhil Advani and a panel discussion with the Women and Cinema Collective. BISFF mentor Prakash Belawadi will be in conversation with Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund, who agreed to open the festival for us.
Register on bisff.in. The event is free.
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