Mumbai Film Festival Considers Physical Screenings After Filmmakers’ Appeal to Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Art and Experience:
UPDATED: Filmmakers have a glimmer of hope after the Mumbai Film Festival said it would consider physical screenings, but did not make any promises.
“We feel the disappointment of the filmmakers,” a statement released by the festival board of trustees and team on Monday said. “We are working on a plan to manage a physical screening for films in our selection that do not screen in India in the near future. Whenever that is possible, we will get in touch and work with the filmmakers to make it happen.”
“But we do not, as we have said repeatedly, want to make promises we cannot keep. We have never requested any of our filmmakers to make choices in our favor or to hold back from whatever they feel is the best platform for their film and we do not want to do it now,” the statement added.
The statement also revealed that an associate sponsor has discontinued their partnership with the festival. “While that has put accumulating pressure on us, we also understand the difficulties of our partners. For us, cancelling an edition of the festival is the last resort. If we do not do an edition, we have nothing to show for our existence so it is a decision that has been taken after deep deliberation and with immense sadness,” the statement said.
Last week, fifteen prominent Indian independent filmmakers 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 had told Variety in response to the filmmakers’ complaint.