Over 5,000 delegate passes for the 23rd International Film Festival Of Kerala were sold in two weeks since the registration for the event was opened. In any other year, this would not have been a huge number for IFFK, one of the biggest film festivals in India that sees over 10,000 footfalls every year. But this year isn’t usual. The festival is happening a few months after a dire flood devastated the state in August, forcing the government to cut short cultural funds to focus on rehabilitation and rebuilding activities.
In early September, the fate of the 23rd IFFK was uncertain as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called off high-profile cultural events in the state. However, the government had a change of heart and AK Balan, the Minister of Cultural Affairs, announced that the film festival would be held, but would be low-key, keeping the expenses to a minimum. From last year’s budget of Rs 6.35 crore, the amount was cut to Rs 3.50 crore, which the organisers hope to realise from the sale of delegate passes and sponsorship. There will be no free passes issued to the media this year, and the festival will see fewer international guests. Also, it has been announced that the opening and closing ceremonies of the festival will be done in a modest manner, without the usual grandeur.
More importantly, the delegate fee has been hiked to Rs 2,000 this time (it was Rs 600 last year), which has resulted in several regular attendees deciding to give IFFK a miss. The news of lack of funds has also set off rumours that the festival’s film line-up will be weak, comprising low-profile films.
To diffuse public concern, the festival committee launched a social media campaign this month, with many celebrities like filmmaker Sakharia and legislator M Swaraj featuring in posters inviting delegates to IFFK. Shaji H, deputy director of the festival, told Silverscreen.in that it will be as huge as always in terms of the number of films and screening venues. “I had many people asking me if there would be international films at the festival this year. I don’t know who spreads these rumours. The festival will have a strong film line-up as we have always had, featuring major titles that won awards and acclaim at festivals across the world. The only major difference this year is that the opening and closing ceremonies will be frill-free. Also, this time, the festival will run a day less, for seven days,” said Shaji.
He added that over 5,000 passes have already been issued, and there are 10 more days to go for the registration deadline. The Indian film line-up and the list of films in international competition have already been announced. In the latter list, apart from four Indian films, there are films from Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. “We are in the process of finalising the deals with companies and filmmakers. Last minute curatorial works and negotiations are underway,” Shaji said.
The 23rd IFFK will be held in Thiruvananthapuram from December 7 to December 13. Online registration for the festival will end on November 25.