There was a time when the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) was known as an ‘intellectual’ event.
Mamata Banerjee changed things completely when she became chief minister. The mass leader that she was, she made KIFF an event for the masses but without compromising on quality. Varieties of films began to be shown – entertaining, middle-of-the-road, as well as of a higher order.
Mamata Banerjee brought the inauguration ceremony (which includes the inaugural film) to the Netaji Indoor Stadium – a 10,000-seater stadium.
Guests invited to the film festival acquired a much wider variety too. Popular film stars began to be invited, including to the inauguration and conclusion ceremonies. The participation of the local Tollywood film industry is now specially sought.
Another aspect of mass participation is ‘Parae Parae Cinema’ – wherein film shows are held on mobile vans in localities across Kolkata. It was introduced at the 2016 edition.
To increase and improve the quality of the participating films, a competition section was introduced. The Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Award was originally given to the best film by a woman director. From 2018, the competition section has been opened to all. To add to the interest this year, two Bengali films have been included to the competition section for the best international film.
This year, people of not just Kolkata but surrounding places too would be able to enjoy the best of international cinema, as PVR Avani (Riverside Mall) In Howrah and PVR Diamond City (Diamond City Mall) in Dum Dum have been added to the list of cinemas participating in the film festival. The number of show venues has also been increased to 16 this year.
The number of films is also increasing year by year. The 24th edition has 170 films from about 70 countries.
Last but not the least is the aspect of food. Kolkata is synonymous with love for good food. Now, the Nandan-Rabindra Sadan complex hosts several stalls set by well-known restaurants and food chains during the duration of the festival, and they are invariably chock-a-block.
Kolkata International Film Festival is now truly a mass event. Every year now, people wait eagerly for November 10 and bid a sad goodbye on November 17, looking forward to another beautiful bouquet of films the next year.