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Film festivals provide a holistic, collective experience to the audience: Anupama Chopra

The executive committee of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, headed by film critic Anupama Chopra, talks about the impact of the 2023 edition of the festival, and the role of women in spearheading it

Samidha Jain
Published: Oct 23, 2023 11:39:45 AM IST
Updated: Oct 27, 2023 12:01:01 AM IST

Film festivals provide a holistic, collective experience to the audience: Anupama Chopra(Left to Right) Deepti DCunha, Maitreyee Dasgupta, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Zoya Akhtar, Vikramaditya Motwane, Rohan Sippy, Rana Daggubati, Anupama Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Ajay Bijli at the inauguration of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

The Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI), has been bringing contemporary world cinema and talent to Mumbai since 1997. This year, the festival, which is being held from October 27 to November 5, is set to bring together more than 250 films, including by Pedro Almodovar, Justine Triet, Bradley Cooper, Anurag Kashyap, Aki Kaurismaki, Koreeda, Alice Rohrwacher, Angela Schanelec, and other debutant South Asian and international filmmakers. With over 40 World premieres, 45 Asia premieres, 70+ South Asia premieres, the films will be across 70 different languages. At the festival, 130 filmmakers are presenting their films in person.

The board of the festival includes actors Farhan Akhtar, Rana Daggubati, and Priyanka Chopra, who also chairs the festival. It also includes filmmakers such as Zoya Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Vikramaditya Motwane, among others. Besides names from the film industry, it also includes Reliance Industries’ Isha and Nita Ambani, PVR Chairman and MD Ajay Bijli, and Mahindra Group MD Anand Mahindra.

Over the past few years, the festival has screened films like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman; The Souvenir; Ek Tha Gaon, among other films that have all been widely acclaimed. At the festival this year, films such as The Buckungham Murders, The Monk and the Gun, and While We Watched will be screened.

As per the festival’s artistic director Deepti Dcunha, the aim of the festival is to “bring the best of world cinema to Mumbai.” MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2023 holds a strong focus on South Asian films with the idea of making the festival a hub for South Asian filmmakers to present their films. The festival has two sections – one being that of world cinema that involves sourcing international films from agencies and the second being South Asian films for which the festival received 1000+ submissions. The films are selected by a committee of cinephiles, including people from the industry, film journalists, and those who have been associated with the festival for years.

Film festivals provide a holistic, collective experience to the audience: Anupama Chopra

The executive committee comprises six members, five of whom are women. “Since 2014, when I got associated with MAMI, I’ve always seen the festival being largely women-led. Women such as Kiran Rao, Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and Priyanka Chopra have always been with MAMI, and still are. It just happens very naturally that this festival becomes female-centric in terms of leadership,” says Anupama Chopra, festival director, and film critic.

“There are a lot of international film festivals where all leadership roles are mostly taken up by men, and so I believe that Jio MAMI is one the rare festivals where very organically more women are spearheading, but we also try to balance it out as much as possible,” says Maitreyee Dasgupta, co-director of the festival.

Chopra believes that the impact a film festival can make on an audience and a filmmaker is immense as it becomes a platform for the audience to not only partake in the original vision of the filmmaker but also engage in a holistic, collective experience. “There's no way to actually gauge what the impact of MAMI film festival is but I believe that over the years it has helped in shaping generations of cinema-watchers who perhaps keep coming back to the festival as more discerning, evolved viewers.”

Film festivals provide a holistic, collective experience to the audience: Anupama Chopra

The Jio MAMI film festival is one of the biggest privately funded festivals in India. Going forward, the festival aims to collaborate more with global film festivals, invite prolific filmmakers from around the world and create its own global presence.

Besides the film screenings, the festival also organises a year-round programme which includes panel discussions on topics such as suitable film productions, advancement in technology vis-a-vis cinema, etc.; Q&As with filmmakers; and exchange of ideas among international filmmakers which happen pre, during, and post the main festival dates. “These discussions and exchange of ideas is why I think a film festival is important as it leads to an industry-wide impact too,” says Dasgupta who believes that there are countless filmmakers who find a voice in film festivals. The festival also has a virtual reality (VR) section this year, and will also be presenting a bunch of 3-D films.

Watch: 'A fantastic year for Indian films at Cannes': Meenakshi Shedde's highlights from the Croisette

Nadir Ahmed, an aspiring filmmaker, has been attending the MAMI film festival for five years now and is of the view that as a cinephile, a festival such as this one holds great significance by opening a world of movies to them, which are difficult to find on streaming platforms or to be downloaded. “I remember watching films from Africa and the Middle East here at MAMI and I was mesmerised with the powerful storytelling,” says the 25-year-old, who works at an advertising agency in Mumbai.

Ahmed believes that festivals like these are a great unifier where noted journalists, screenwriters, directors, actors are all gathered at the same place, celebrating films. “For me, this is the most beautiful takeaway from all the times I've been to MAMI,” Ahmed says as he recalls waiting in queue for almost three hours for a Russian film called Beanpole being screened at the festival.

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