Art and Experience:

Fifteen prominent Indian independent filmmakers have issued an open letter to the Mumbai Film Festival, appealing to festival chair Priyanka Chopra Jonas to lay on physical screenings at the canceled – but partially online – event.

The letter is signed by several filmmakers whose films premiered at A-list festivals, including Aditya Vikram Sengupta (“Once Upon A Time In Calcutta,” Venice), Gurvinder Singh (“Adh Chanani Raat,” Rotterdam), Irfana Majumdar (“Shankar’s Fairies,” Locarno), Natesh Hegde (“Pedro,” Busan/London), Nithin Lukose (“Paka,” Toronto), Payal Kapadia and Ranabir Das (“A Night of Knowing Nothing,” Cannes) and Rahul Jain (“Invisible Demons,” Cannes).

The physical edition of the festival was called off earlier this month, “due to a multitude of challenges brought upon by the continuing pandemic,” per a statement from the festival. “At this point, we do not know when, what form and shape the festival will take in the future,” the statement from the festival, run by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image popularly known as MAMI, added.



The festival released the official selection list and decided to screen some of the films online. Several of the filmmakers were in correspondence with the festival regarding physical screenings. Now, several filmmakers officially selected in the India Story, Spotlight, and India Gold sections of the festival have expressed disappointment and have appealed for physical screenings.

“This [cancellation] news was a great disappointment to us. Some of us were officially selected in the 2020 edition, and had saved our India premieres for two years, waiting for this festival,” the filmmakers’ letter said. “Others had turned down multiple other festivals in India in favor of MAMI. Some of us had paid submission fees to MAMI. Most of us were counting on the festival to give our films visibility and a unique opportunity to share them with audiences, the industry and market as most of our films will not get distribution in the way commercial films do. None of us has a plan for how to proceed now.”

“The view towards digital screenings was mixed. Either way, this offer did not adequately address our concerns with the fate of our films, or our feeling of discontent with the manner and timing of this decision. We collectively requested a meeting with the organizers to discuss other ways forward, but this request was ignored. We are extremely disheartened by this,” the letter added.

“All we ask is that MAMI hold physical screenings of our films over a shorter period of time,” the letter states. “We want to appeal to Priyanka Chopra, the chairperson, and other trustees of MAMI, to step up to the plate at this crucial moment and help us keep the spirit of the Mumbai Film Festival — Mumbai’s biggest festival of independent cinema — alive.”

“We cannot do physical screenings for some and not for the others. It is not fair. And if we were in a position to do it then we would have held the festival,” festival artistic director Smriti Kiran told Variety in response to the filmmakers’ complaint.

Source: Variety