A celebration of a film set in scenic Ladakh. Bilal A Jan attends the event and reviews the festivities.

A film festival in one of the world’s highest inhabited places is bound to get more attention than usual; and the Ladakh International Film Festival-2012 certainly has. It is on its way to being part of the Limca Book of Records or the Guinness Book of World Records for being the ‘highest altitude film festival.”

Under the Chairmanship of Shyam Benegal, the doyen of Indian cinema, the festival kicked off in Leh, Tsuru, behind the Shanti Stupa area, on June 15th at an open-air amphitheatre along with good acoustics, filled with Dolby Digital sound and having more than 200 seating capacity.

The three day festival was organized by the Delhi based private event management and entertainment house, Monasse Films, in collaboration with Ladakh Hill Development Council, Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir.

Eminent filmmakers from India and abroad were the festival patrons and  core members, including Shekhar Kapur, Mani Ratnam, Derek Malcom, Jacob Neiiendam, Govind Nihalani, Ketan Mehta, Shaji N Karun and others. Others present were Madhur Bhandakar, Vishal Bhardwaj, Deepti Naval, Mike Pandey, Nitin Desai, Ashok Purang, Dr Biju Damodarn and Santosh Sivan.

The festival was inaugurated by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, along with the Minister for Tourism and Culture Nawang Rigzin Johra, Minister for State, Tourism Culture and Home Nasir Aslam Sogami, CEO LHDC Rigzin Spalbar, Chairman LIFF- Shri Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani Patron LIFF-2012.

During his inaugural speech the Chief Minister said, “I hope that this Ladakh International Film Festival is an annual event and it goes from strength to strength, and I hope one day LIFF will match, if not exceed the reputation of Cannes film festival.”

The festival was witnessed by foreign delegates from Italy, France, Germany, Australia, America and Korea and Indian delegates as well. 76 films were screened in different categories including the competition section, Indian/international-non-competition, milestone of Indian cinema, and Ladakh section. The films included feature films, short films and documentaries.

According to the Chairman of the jury for LIFF 2012 Jahnu Barua, out of 300 odd film entries, the jury saw only 27 films, out of which five were feature films, six documentaries, 16 short fiction films and the rest were seen by pre-jury members. The jury comprised of eminent filmmakers and film critics from Germany, Switzerland and Canada.

The inaugural film was the trailer of “Kamli,” an animated film by Govind Nihalni. Some other films like—Bard Songs, The Way home, Aliya Rizwan—the guardian of paradise, Africa United, The son of a Lion, I Am, Meherjaan, The Finish Line, Africa United, Partners in Crime The wild Guest, Las Del, Adamkosh, Ankur, Bhuvan Shome, Bandit Queen, Ardha Satya, The Identities ,Skit Sum Duk Sun, Mera  Kuchh Samaan, The Tiger, they are all  Dead,  China Heavy weight, Think Global Act Rural, Womb of the world, Marina, An Human, The Summit, Sengadal  Alexandra David Neel, The Ticket, The Naked Lady,  Black & White and Sex, Culture of Resistance, Kuma, Ghandi-the silent Gun,  Out of  the Thin Air  were the notable ones.

Termed by festival authorities as a “green” one, a green carpet premier was hoisted for Aasman Bhardwaj -a very young filmmaker from India and son of Vishal Bhardwaj. “The Identities” was shown on the special Green Carpet viewing. It is Based on a thought provoking experimental short film, in which Bollywood actress Kalki acted in the lead role. The film was appreciated by LIFF patron Govind Nihalani and the audience at large.

On the sidelines of festival attraction, an interactive media session was held, where the Chairman LIFF-Shyam Benegal, Nina lath Gupta, and Govind Nihalani, patron of LIFF, interacted with Ladakhi filmmakers and witnessed some future plans for promoting the Ladakhi film industry and promising to start a film appreciation course in Ladakh for inculcating creative traits among  the Ladakhi filmmakers.

The closing film of the festival was India’s first indigenous feature film Raja HarishChandra- a silent film  by D G Phalke, popularly known as Dada Sahib Phalke, in 1913. This two reel existing film was a tribute/ mark of the birth century of Indian cinema.

Holding such a film festival in a tough location like Ladakh is a challenge in itself. The festival could have improved on many fronts—such as the fact that there was no functional media center, and no festival catalogue.

The author is a Kashmir-based filmmaker and was a coordinator with LIFF-2012.  He can be reached at [email protected]


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