All the glitz and fanfare does nothing to rejuvenate Goa's economy.
All the glitz and fanfare does nothing to rejuvenate Goa's economy.Pic courtesy: Iris Gomes

Is IFFI giving back to Goa?

Goa has the experience of 18 years to fall back on and develop IFFI into an event that gives back to Goans

We are at exactly the midpoint of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) with the Kala Academy not thrown open to host the event as renovation works at the complex continue.

After all the controversies regarding the renovation, it could hardly be expected to be completed in time to welcome the delegates for the film festival, especially since Goa, and the festival itself, is still awaiting the convention centre that was promised in 2004 when Goa hosted the IFFI for the first time.

That 18 years later, the convention centre is nowhere on the horizon, indicates just how lethargic the state can be where its promises are concerned, especially in relation to the festival.

The city of Panjim has been dressed up to the nines.
The city of Panjim has been dressed up to the nines.Pic courtesy: Iris Gomes

But, apart from that, questions are being raised on social media sites asking whether Goa has gained anything from the festival. Even cursorily, the answer would be no. The film culture that was expected to seep into the people and the system has not happened.

The expectation that IFFI would put Goa on the international film festival map, rivalling Cannes, has also not happened. It has also not turned around tourism in the state. By being the host, the state has given the festival an edge in marketing and branding that has, perhaps, not been fully exploited.

After 18 years Goa still has not been able to provide the infrastructure for the festival. In 2004, the year the festival opened in Goa, the expectations from it were many. There was hope that it would contribute to the state economy and that there would be related infrastructure.

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The government at that time and those that came subsequently, did make promises and even renewed them at the editions of the festival that followed, but never fulfilled any of them.

There is a gap of 11 months between two editions of the film festival, time enough to plan for the next one and bring about the changes needed to improve on the past. Right now, even 18 years after the first festival in Goa, it remains merely a matter of prestige to host it, while Goa is gaining nothing from even this supposed prestige.

But then, Goa’s organisation of the IFFI could well be turned into a film itself, minus the glamour and the glitz. It could have shades of a ‘B’ grade film that ends well for the cast, but not for the audience.

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The cast here being the organisers and the delegates who enjoy their stay in Goa, and the audience being the residents of Goa who get nothing from it.

The only gains for Goa are that for the nine days of the festival hotels in Panjim and around receive extra bookings, restaurants in the same areas have their tables full and locals get to gawk at the illumination around the venue and walk along the Mandovi promenade, sampling some of the food on sale.

The only crumbs that the fledgling Goa film fraternity gets are some sections for the Konkani films or programmes that it can host. That’s IFFI for Goa. 

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If IFFI is to be made to work for Goa, the state has to make efforts to leverage the hosting of the festival to the maximum so as to gain from it. It cannot happen with Goa only rousing itself up from its year-long slumber in November when the festival is just days away.

What instead occurs is that for 11 months Goa takes it easy, and in November pays out of its funds for the hosting of the festival. The sponsorship the state gets for the festival does not meet the expenses.

This calls for some introspection from the state on whether it is advisable to host this festival or whether it is a burden on the state’s exchequer and the existing infrastructure.

Many would possibly agree that it is a drain on the exchequer and needs to be seriously re-evaluated. So why not do exactly that? An analysis of what the festival has to offer and what it actually offers to Goa.

It may have been a great idea to make Goa the permanent venue of the festival. At that time, it was welcomed, but that decision should have been accompanied by a proper plan as to how Goa would contribute towards improving the festival and how the festival would in return help the state. It is still not too late to get it done.

The state is the permanent venue of the festival, so the festival is not going anywhere. Goa has the experience of the past 18 years to fall back upon and prepare a plan to make IFFI work for it. Unless this is done, hosting the festival year after year will not bring any benefit to Goa.

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