After overcoming the dilemma of ‘to be or not to be’, the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival decided to be. From January 8-15, the festival took place at several venues including Nandan, Shishir Mancha, Rabindra Sadan and other theatres in the city. Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal Smt. Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the festival on January 8, 2021, in the presence of a bunch of celebrities. This year, the festival revolved around two main themes — one was tribute to auteur Satyajit Ray on his birth centenary, and the other was the tribute to veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee, who passed away last November due to post-Covid complications.
Among 1,170 submission from around the world, a total of 132 features, shorts and documentaries were screened over these eight days. Out of them, around 81 features and 50 shorts and documentaries were from 45 different countries of the world. The Golden Tiger Award of Best Film was bestowed to Iranian film Bander band, directed by Manijeh Hekmat. This film is about how the devastating flood of 2019 affected the fate of a bunch of Iranian young singers.
The award for Best Director was given to Artyk Suyundukov. The Kyrgyz director won this award for the film Shambala. Apart from this, the Special Jury Mention was awarded to the film Blind Fold from Ukraine. It was the first feature of director Taras Doran. The Golden Tiger for Best Film in Indian Language was won by False eye by Rahul Riji Nyar. Best Director in Indian Language was given to Biswajit Bhora for his film God in the Balcony. Bangladeshi film Nonajoler Kabbo by Rezwan Shariar Sumit became the The Asian Select (NETPAC). Short film Dusk won the Best Short Award and the Best Documentary was given to Highways of Lifre.
Apart from Satyajit Ray, the festival also paid centenary tributes to musician Pt. Ravi Shankar, singer Hemanta Mukherjee, actor Bhanu Bandhopadhyay, and directors Eric Rohmer and Federico Fellini. As a tribute, Pt. Ravi Shankar’s and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1960 Hindi film Anuradha was screened. Saptapadi was screened as a tribute to Hemanta Mukherjee and Basanta Bilas was screened to pay tribute to Bhanu Bandhopadhyay.
There was also a screening of a documentary titled Bhubonmoy Bhanu. La Dolce Vita, Juliet of the Spirit, Eight & Half and The Voice of The Moon have been showcased as a tribute to Felini. To pay a tribute to Soumitra Chatterjee, Apur Sansar (World of Apu) was screened on the first day of the eight-day long festival in Rabindra Sadan. Chatterjee’s other films, Dekha, Ganadevata, Wheel Chair, Akash Kusum, Mayurakshi, Koni, Padakkhep and Bahaman, were also screened as part of the tribute.
Though the pandemic has put the recent past in a pathetic and monotonous condition, this event brought smiles back to the city. Cinephiles of Kolkata are nodding their heads in agreement that this year has brought new hope as it started on a happy note of this festival.