By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, June 17 (Ajit Weekly News) The key factor in Dharamshala International Film Festivals (DIFF) unique identity, apart from the fact that it is located in a picturesque place, is that it was started by two filmmakers, Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin, who wanted simply to share their love of cinema with others.
As independent filmmakers, they had shown their films at many festivals around the world, both big and small but understood that the ones that liked more than others were usually the smaller ones driven by a passion for pure cinema, without any of the glitz and hype that accompanies some of the bigger ones.
“Often held in intimate surroundings where filmmakers were welcomed and the audiences were devoted, these festivals valued the film-viewing experience along with interactions with filmmakers above everything else. When we started DIFF, we did our best to put into practice what we had learnt. We did not realise it then but audiences in India were hungry and ready for such an experience and we were surprised by how quickly DIFF filled a niche in the Indian film festival landscape,” Sarin tells Ajit Weekly News.
As the festival gets set to be back in its physical avatar (November 3-6) after two years, though it did not have a break and was held digitally during the Pandemic, the duo are looking forward to the old times.
“We realise that much has changed since our last physical festival in 2019. DIFF has always been about showing films on a big screen to live audiences, and having the buzz and excitement of filmmakers and movie lovers coming together in intimate surroundings, so we are really looking forward to making this happen again,” says Sonam.
Adding that the experience of holding a film festival online was a huge learning curve as when they were the first major festival in the country to go online in 2020, Sarin remembers: “We had no examples in our part of the world to learn or get advice from. In the event, both our virtual editions were a success, and had some specific advantages over a physical festival primarily because we were able to expand both our programming and our audience base. The online space is an important one and here to stay, even though it is increasingly a crowded one. We do plan to take part of DIFF 2022 online, so it will be a hybrid festival. From our experience, and looking at developments in the film festival world, this seems to be the future.”
Admitting that the Pandemic has sucked much funding out the arts sector, Sonam laments that a number of their regular sponsors have had to pull out and they are struggling to find others to fill the vacuum for the upcoming festival, which will boast of 40 feature length films and around 50 short films.
“It will also witness the launch of Filmlab South Asia in partnership with Festival 3 Continents’ Produire au Sud (PAS initiative and the French Institute in India. This training workshop will focus on developing and packaging film projects suitable for international co-productions and is a great opportunity for emerging producer–director teams. We are now accepting applications on the DIFF website,” says Sonam.
The couple, whose last feature film ‘The Sweet Requiem’ was made in 2018 are currently working on a new script.
“Following our recent exhibition, ‘Shadow Circus’ Centre in New Delhi we have plans to travel with that show, starting first with Kolkata,” concludes Sarin.
–Ajit Weekly News