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International Film Festival of India 2004: Will it be held at all ?

The recent change in Government at New Delhi seems to have caused uncertainty over the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) scheduled to be held in Panaji, Goa, at the end of November 2004.

Panaji was chosen as a permanent venue after years of indecisiveness when both the organising Directorate of Film Festivals and the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting moved the 10-day annual cinema event from city to city.

This not only marred the Festival's chances of finding a permanent shelter and building on it, but also left the Directorate with very little time to focus on IFFI's content and give it a character.

Also, the organisers forgot for a long time that most major movie festivals all over the world were identified with a city or two: Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Montreal, Locarno, San Sebastian and Tokyo are classic examples.

However, the last two Ministers for Information and Broadcasting, Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad, realised the handicaps of a gypsy festival and worked towards making IFFI a world class happening. Guided by -- or should I say, smitten by -- the example of Cannes, they chose Goa both for its scenic attractions and its  tourist potential.

Unfortunately, despite an enthusiastic Chief Minister in Goa now, who is keen on holding the Festival there this year, doubts persist about the feasibility of unspooling it this November.

Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Goa have suggested that the Festival be postponed by a year so that a proper infrastructure could be in place. In a recent interface programme with Goa Government officials, the NGOs regretted that the project was being hurried through and that the people of the State were being kept in the dark about it.

Without going into the merits and demerits of this argument, one would merely like to state that the Festival itself should not be put off, even if the new venue at Panaji is not ready by November. We have already had one postponement in recent times: in 2001, a drought in Karnataka led to the cancellation of IFFI at Bangalore, that year's venue.

New Delhi has a good infrastructure in place at Siri Fort, where the Festival was organised during the past two years. So, there really is no excuse not to hold the Festival at all. Rather, what needs to be done immediately is to decide on this year's venue and prepare for it.

Although, Panaji could be an ideal locale for IFFI, it makes little sense in cancelling the Festival itself if the new facilities there are not ready. New Delhi can certainly play host once more.

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