Most of the film festivals around us were conceived before a time when the numerous OTT platforms or even the Internet was a thing. Those days, we could only watch the movies that were screened in the cinemas near us. Film festivals were probably the only way to get a taste of cinema from around the world.
Now, of course, times have changed so much that a South Korean TV show was the biggest hit of the past year worldwide. We have digital platforms offering carefully curated, critically acclaimed movies. Content has never been more accessible.
In such a time, have film festivals lost their relevance? One look at the huge crowds who turned up for this year’s IFFK would tell you the answer is a big, loud NO.
Film festivals are all about movies, and yet not only about watching them. The feeling of a community action that you get when you see co-delegates with their clothe-bags and id tags, the adrenaline rush from the careful scrutiny of the screening schedule to pick the films matching your taste, the run from one venue to another - often ignoring hunger and fatigue, the sheer joy of watching beautiful stories from distant cultures unfurling on the silver screen, the interactions with people from the industry discussing various aspects of filmmaking - all these contribute in making film festivals the unique experiences they are.
My exposure to film festivals has been limited to IFFK, and the five times I have experienced the fest has only strengthened my resolve to attend more editions in the future. Of course, not all movies that I have watched have satisfied the viewer in me. Each movie is a gamble, and we need to gamble our way forward hoping each one delivers. For a cineholic, a film festival is an annual pilgrimage. Our Amarnath Yatra, our Hajj, our Vatican City Pilgrimage. Except, we know what we are going to see is something born from a figment of imagination on someone’s mind.