Is Aamir Khan an alcoholic

Mumbai Film Festival
Cinema in the city of the seven islands

Aamir Khan, Jio Mami Film Festival 2017 | © YouTube (excerpt)

If you want to get around in Mumbai, you have to cope with insane traffic. In the "City of Seven Islands", as Mumbai was historically called, there is a lively juxtaposition of luxury cars, tuk-tuks, buses and pedestrians. In the city with the highest density of billionaires in India, who live side by side with the millions of poor, the geographical location makes the use of the main roads and bridges of the city inevitable for the 19 million inhabitants.

This initial situation naturally influences the organization of a large film festival such as the “Mumbai Film Festival”, called “MAMI” by the Indians. The organizers are faced with the task of making a suitable film selection and distributing the performances to the various screening rooms in the city. Especially because the audience figures are extremely important for the only major film festival on the Indian subcontinent. Because the festival does not receive any state support: it is financed through private sponsors and the proceeds from ticket sales. This is also an unusual innovation for the visitors, because people in third world countries have long been used to the fact that their cultural activities are financed by the state. The 19th MAMI Mumbai Film Festival took place from October 12th to 18th, 2017.

Advantages and disadvantages of independence

Kiran Rao has chaired the film festival since 2015. The director and producer is known in the world of film festivals for her film “Dhobi Ghat” (Mumbai Diaries), while film lovers know her as the wife and production partner of the well-known Aamir Khan. We met Rao for dinner in an upscale restaurant in one of the trendy districts of Mumbai, which was organized by the festival for the jury members and foreign guests. She told us about the benefits and difficulties of working without the support of the Indian government.

Kiran Rao, Mumbai Film Festival | © YouTube (excerpt) “Financial independence gives us greater freedom when it comes to choosing films, guests and the whole program in general. But freedom has a price that can be summed up in two words: censorship and taxes. "

All films to be shown within India must be approved by the censors, even if the screening takes place as part of a cultural event. No government can guarantee that we will be able to show all of the films we want to show. In many cases, when a film comes too close to the three well-known risk topics, sex, politics and religion, the authority authorizes a cultural performance, but prevents the sale of tickets. This harms the festival, which obviously depends on the proceeds from ticket sales.

On the other hand, in commercial demonstrations, we always have the problem of taxes. In India, taxes in the film industry are immense. The law classifies cinema as an "offense" like alcohol or cigarettes, and therefore charges it with very high taxes. That may work for big film productions that make millions, but for a festival like ours that is just trying to cover its costs, it is impossible to pay those sums of money. That is why we fight every year to be exempt from taxes, a decision that would be easier if we were supported by the state. "

The same two problems were addressed by the writer and producer Smriti Kiran, creative director of the festival. We met her in the Juhu district, in the lobby of the hotel that serves as the festival's headquarters, and talked about the difficulties of organizing festivals in cities like Mumbai or Cairo. She added a third aspect: continuity.

“When you depend on sponsors, both corporate and private sponsors, you live with the constant risk of losing one of them. If one of the main sponsors withdraws, it could endanger the entire festival. That's why we pretend it's the last time every time. This is not a nice feeling, but it can be interpreted positively: Everyone in the team works as well as they can to ensure that the next festival is the best. "
   

First and foremost, the audience counts

Kiran leads a team of international program managers who are responsible for the film selection and the festival program. Given the complexity of a city like Mumbai, she explains, the philosophy of the festival is to focus on the audience first. Getting to a screening location may be a hassle for guests, but not for those who are used to Mumbai life and the local traffic.

“Our festival is aimed at the residents of this city. Based on this, we distribute the film screenings to 18 halls in seven different locations. We adapt the division to people's lifestyles so that anyone who wants to watch films has an opportunity close to where they live.

We have three cinemas, which can be seen as the center of the festival, with a total of 11 halls that are within walking distance of each other. Here we show every film of the festival at least twice and film lovers spend the entire day in this area. For the other venues, we select the films very carefully, always according to the respective district.

For example, in the festival's largest film room (1,100 seats), we show the major international and Indian productions that the audience likes to watch on giant screens. For the winning films from Cannes, some film lovers queue for an hour and a half to see the film in this hall instead of in one of the smaller screening rooms in the festival center. "

The best proof of the attention that the festival gives its visitors is probably the selection of films, which can be divided into two categories: international cinema and Indian cinema. As part of the Mumbai Film Festival, visitors can watch almost all international films that have been successful and recognized at the major festivals in Cannes, Berlin or Locarno. "Not all of them, of course ... Eight or nine films are missing," explains Smriti Kiran with a wink when I tell her about my observation.

The festival organizes several competitions around the screenings of Indian films, including "India Gold", where the best Indian films compete against each other, "India Story", for films from Indian cities with local perspectives, "Discovering India" for Indian films the diaspora, “Dimensions Mumbai”, for short films (feature and documentary films) and for film school films the competition “JIO MAMI Content Studio”.

The MAMI Mumbai Film Festival is like an annual meeting of international film, which tries to survive and develop independently of governments. It is an inspiring example of cultural activity in the developing world.

Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) Logo | © YouTube (excerpt)
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