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Smaller screens, panoramic choice

For cinephiles across the world, a digital film festival – We are One — will keep audiences riveted as most people stay indoors during the pandemic 

When you join the queue, with a ‘pass’ in your hand and are about to enter the theatre, but still question yourself: ‘Am I making the right choice?’ You keep thinking whether ‘that’ film would have been a better one, or the one you are about to watch. After all, that’s what film festivals make us feel – spoilt for choice!

For cinephiles, film festivals are events that they look forward to with great enthusiasm – every year. Though, not all big festivals are open for audience viewing, members of film fraternity, journalists and all those who get a chance to be a part of it have a certain power to make a film eligible for theatrical release or awards or critical acclaim.

Thus, film festivals are, undoubtedly, an important aspect of the world of motion pictures. “I remember how a film festival at Delhi was to screen the critically-acclaimed Spanish film Pain and Gory – and I was counting the days to the screening,” recalls Ankita Basu, a Delhi-based student. “But soon, news of cancellation of the festival appeared in my mailbox – as the world came under the grip of Coronavirus and lockdown followed thereafter.”

Like Basu, many film lovers suffered a sense of loss. Apart from audiences, the film fraternity went through a tough time with the cancellation of big festivals — most of which takes place during summer.

Stepping in to breach the gap, Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube have debuted a 10-day event ‘We are One: A Global Film Festival’, possibly the biggest online film festival in history.

Festival partners include Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival.

“We thought, ‘What could we do to help?'” said organiser and Tribeca CEO Jane Rosenthal in an interview with BBC. “You have musicians, comedians and chefs that have been gathering for various relief efforts. At a time where we’re all feeling so isolated, and we’re all looking for something to watch, I had this idea of bringing all the film festivals, the great curators, together.”

More than 100 films will be streamed. Notable film presentations include Ricky Powell: The Individualist, a documentary about the well-known street photographer featuring interviews with Natasha Lyonne and LL Cool J; the premiere of Eeb Allay Ooo!, a satirical feature about professional “monkey repellers” — and is the winner of Mumbai Film Festival’s Golden Gateway Award; and the world premiere of Iron Hammer, a documentary feature directed by Joan Chen about Chinese Olympic volleyball star Jenny Lang Ping.

Apart from feature films, the festival will also have 50 narrative and documentary shorts – including the world premiere of Japanese narrative short, created by director Koji Fukada for the festival ‘Yalta Conference Online.’ In addition to this, it will also broadcast panel discussions and talks featuring Francis Ford Coppola with Steven Soderbergh, Song Kang-ho and Bong Joon Ho, Guillermo del Toro, Jane Campion and Claire Denis.

Poster of “Ricky Powell: The Individualist”

“There will be surprises, whether that’s directors talking, musical surprises, we’re trying to give you that sense of musical spontaneity as much as we can on a virtual screen,” adds Rosenthal.

“When I first got to know about this digital festival, I was thrilled! It is a really big event – and we are getting to be a part of it – even if virtually. So I have been enjoying the films that are being streamed in ‘We are One’ festival. Hope more such initiatives happen in the future,” says Shreya Ganguly, a Bangalore-based journalist.

One unique thing about this festival is that audiences will be able to donate, if they wish, and contribute to Covid-19 relief efforts. Donations can be made – through a donate button link on every film page — to the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, UNHCR, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Leket Israel, GO Foundation and Give2Asia.

Another important feature is that smaller festivals, which aren’t publicised or talked about as much as Sundance, Cannes, Toronto – in an international circuit – will benefit from this collaboration.

Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Soderbergh during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival

The Indian films which have been selected are Nasir, Eeb Allay Ooo!, Awake and Natkhat. “They represent urgent, relevant and diverse aspects of India and the world. We Are One is a milestone endeavour for us to stand in solidarity with the global film community and an incredible opportunity and platform to put some of our best new cinematic voices out in the world,” said Smiriti Kiran, artistic director of Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, in an interview with a news website.

(Cover: Poster of “Eeb Allay Ooo”)