Magazine article Screen International

Film Bazaar: India Builds an Ecosystem

Magazine article Screen International

Film Bazaar: India Builds an Ecosystem

Article excerpt

Liz Shackleton looks at how organisers of Goa's annual Film Bazaar are following on successes with new initiatives and closer ties to finance. But where are the Indian audiences for independent Indian films?

The past year has seen another string of successes for films that were nurtured through India's annual co-production market, Film Bazaar (November 20-24), and which later found berths at major international film festivals.

At this year's Venice Film Festival, Chaitanya Tamhane's legal drama, Court, was awarded best film in the Orizzonti section and the Luigi de Laurentiis award for best debut. Court also won best film and director at the recent Mumbai Film Festival, where Bikas Mishra's Chauranga, co-financed by Film Bazaar organiser National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), was awarded best film in the India Gold competition.

Earlier in the year, Avinash Arun's Killa, about a boy struggling to adjust to changing family circumstances, scooped a Crystal Bear in Berlin, while Kanu Behl's gritty family drama, Titli, premiered in Cannes' Un Certain Regard. Meanwhile, Shonali Bose's Margarita, With A Straw, which tackles issues of disability and bisexuality, and Partho Sen-Gupta's Sunrise, about a father haunted by the kidnapping of his daughter, both received glowing reviews on premiering at Toronto and Busan respectively.

All these films passed through the various strands of Film Bazaar in recent years -- either through the Screenwriters' Lab, which mentors projects at script stage; the Co-production Market, which introduces market-ready projects to potential investors and co-producers; or the Work-in-Progress (WIP) Lab, which screens rough cuts to distributors and festival programmers. In some cases, the films passed through multiple strands -- such as Titli, which took part in Screenwriters' Lab in 2012 and returned the following year as a Work-in-Progress.

"We're looking for projects with international viability because the idea is to present stories that producers will be genuinely interested in," says NFDC managing director Nina Lath Gupta, explaining the market's selection criteria. She adds that the WIP Lab has become a well-trodden hunting ground for festival programmers: "You often find a few programmers vying for the same film -- it's very satisfying to see that happen." The WIP Lab is being expanded this year to also include feature-length documentaries.

Ready for expansion

With alumni also including 'Hindie' successes such as The Lunchbox, Miss Lovely and Ship Of Theseus, Film Bazaar has proved its mettle in its current format, and the organisers felt it was time to expand its scope. This year, the event has introduced three initiatives in its attempts to create a full-service devel-opment and financing cycle for South Asian independent cinema: a Romance Screenwriters' Lab, Film Offices and an Investor Pitch section.

The Film Offices see Indian tourism boards and film commissions from around the globe take dedicated offices at Film Bazaar's main venue, the Goa Marriott Resort, to present their locations and services to both Indian and international producers. "What we've seen over the years is that certain state governments and film commissions set up their stalls at Film Bazaar, but it was a passive initiative with no one-on-one engagement," Gupta explains.

"We noticed there was a communi-cation gap, so we're organising individual meetings to help producers understand what each country and region has to offer."

The Romance Screenwriters' Lab is an extension of Film Bazaar's existing script workshop, but with a focus on romance and women-centric stories, which tend to be more mainstream than projects in other sections of the market.

The six selected projects will be presented during Investor Pitch, a new event that puts film-makers in the same room as the money. India is seeing a growing number of entrepreneurs who are interested in backing offbeat and independent films -- people such as Manish Mundra, who financed Rajat Kapoor's critically acclaimed Ankhon Dekhi, and is also backing Shiladitya Bora's Minefield, selected for this year's Co-production Market. …

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