It had to happen, but when it did, it caught us completely by surprise from right out of left field, and even though all invites were so kindly sent to us, we missed the whole ding-dong show!!
Anyway ~ from all reports (and there were plenty!) it was one helluva blast, and a jolly good time was had by all and sundry at the first "ITC Digital Talkies International Film Festival" , with movies screened by the dozen all the way through from when Ms. Sushma Swaraj set things rolling at a gala opening ceremony and dinner as Chief Guest in her role as Information & Broadcasting Minister to the Government of India, all the way through to the posh Awards Night and Dinner at the super deluxe Maurya Sheraton Hotel & Towers.
That "ITC" in the name of the festival is of course the Indian tobacco & hospitality giant ~and owners of the Maurya~ who came in as lead supporter to the event along with the British Council in India, the Public Affairs Department of the US Embassy in New Delhi, the Federation of Film Societies of India, and the Government of India's Directorate of Film Festivals. Sponsors included Indian Airlines, Barco, B4U, PVR Cinemas, Glenmorangie, Jack Daniels, Fosters and Duty Free India.
So then who's "Digital Talkies"?
Well here's the scuttlebutt ~ this here's an outfit floated by some pretty big-time **brothers in arms including Shekhar Kapur (Film Director), Hari Shankar Bhartia (industrialist & serial-entrepreneur), Suhel Seth (Ad Boss), etc. (**and maybe one or two sisters).
And here's what the outfit had to say for itself in the opening pages of the festival-brochure, beginning with the following opening statement from Shekhar Kapur, as President of the Festival:
"The ITC Digital Takies International Film Festival is indeed an occasion to celebrate.
"This is the first time than an exclusive showcase is being put up for a type of visual storytelling that was all but non-existent six months ago. We did feel at the beginning of it all that Digital Video had the potential to change some of the restrictions and conventions applied to other forms of visual storytelling. The films that you will see as part of this festival prove that it has.
"What I see emerging from this festival is a new type of filmmaking one that is a truly free and artistic expression of the filmmaker's intentions. Personally, these films fill me with hope. A new, democratic form of filmmaking has opened up; a transference of power has begun; a new generation of talent is finding its voice.
"Every year this festival will bring to you a showcase of the startling, brave, and innovative advances in Digital Filmmaking Internationally. I hope this festival will, over the course of the years, allow this nw medium to take its rightful place along with the already existing forms of visual communication.
[signed: Shekhar Kapur ~ PRESIDENT OF FESTIVAL]"
The following two texts from the brochure tell us a bit more about Digital Talkies itself, and why it's making the big "DV" deal:
Brochure text #1
"the story so far...
"Digital Talkies launched in September 2000 with a promise to help independent filmmakers tell their stories, and to ensure a pathway for those stories to an audience. A tall order by any standards in an environment where the lowest common denominator - economically as well as intellectually - was the determining factor in the majority of work.
"The challenges ahead of us were clear from the start, but that didn't make them any less monumental. We realized that Digital Video was the solution to the dearth of what Shekhar Kapur deemed "an honest cinema" at our launch press conference in New Delhi. But the job was in convincing the filmmaking community as well as the programming and distribution community that Digital Video, while it would never replace film, would open up a new vista of work - thematically as well as aesthetically.
"In October we started traveling - spreading the gospel, talking to believers and disbelievers, and singing the virtues of that subversive little tape format DV. We met filmmakers in Bangalore, Chennai, Calcutta and Mumbai. We met a lot of skepticism, but surprisingly even more enthusiasm. We met hundreds of filmmakers who were as frustrated as we were with all the restrictions that were placed upon image creation and story telling in the country. The time, it seemed, was ripe for a change.
"To kickstart production in Digital Video we decided to solicit proposals from filmmakers who wanted to enter into co-productions with us and thereby produce the first crop of Digital Video Cinema. We wanted to assist filmmakers based on their needs, and fill in the gaps that their resources could not. It was understood by the team at DT that we would try and support work that tried to actively search for a new aesthetic and a new thematic - something we felt was an essential exploration. If the new format of Digital Video was to survive and create a space for itself that would ward off irrelevant comparisons with celluloid and video, there had to be the active development of a cinematic language that would be different, new, and relevant to the medium.
"We received over 400 proposals for co-production. We had been expecting less than half that amount. Success, it seemed, had brushed us. We entered the next stage of operations, approaching about 15 filmmakers with offers of co-production, after many nights and days of fervent debate and cold pizza.
"There followed negotiations, heart break, exhaustion, and exhilaration. We mounted ten productions almost simultaneously in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, and Gujarat. We were besieged by unions, held ransom by equipment failures, and handicapped by our own lack of knowledge.
"We had entered uncharted seas - without really having bothered to see if we could swim.
"It's four months later, and we're still alive. Call it luck, youthful stubbornness, belief, or simply having the right idea at the right time and hoping. The festival marks the culmination of the first phase of our work here at Digital Talkies - to help create Digital Video work, and to help create an awareness and appreciation for it.
"And there's more to come."
Brochure text #2
"why digital video?
"Filmmaking has never been more accessible and affordable. New digital technologies are empowering a wave of independent filmmakers - allowing them to make the cinema that is closest to their ideas. They no longer have to devote time and energy to protracted and often fruitless attempts to find finance. They no longer have to cede creative control to financiers. Because digital video (DV) budgets are so much lower, filmmakers can make films more often, take more risks, and keep practicing their craft. DV allows filmmakers to take greater creative risks. Given the cost of production, they have little to lose by experimenting, and a lot to gain if they can make a truly original film. DV is shifting power from financiers to filmmakers, who no longer need their money, permission, or approval.
"There is a revolution in the air.
"This subversive little videotape format has achieved much in the last few years. Much work has been created on DV, not all of it good. Much debate has been centered on fallacious comparisons of film with DV. Many festivals have shown DV films, most only when the DV is converted, at great cost, to celluloid.
"But, most importantly, DV has thrown up a whole range of new and exciting possibilities in storytelling and aesthetics. There is an excitement at hand - that of the discovery of a whole new format in imagemaking - a realization that if DV isn't film, it certainly isn't video either. DV work is unfettered, artisanal, renegade, and very hip. It may not be replacing film, but it is certainly making a lot of people sit up and take notice.
A great democratic vista of the people's work is opening up.
The Digital Talkies Festival 2001 is India's first showcase for exceptional works made in digital video worldwide. Over 250 films were submitted for consideration, a screening panel went through them and selected 58 films for showcasing in the competitive category of the festival. These films, from all over the world, come together over the next five days to announce that the future of filmmaking may well be within the grasp of the talent and not the money.
Above all, we believe the festival is a celebration of talent and resourcefulness applied to cutting edge technology.
DAY ONE, 27TH MARCH 2001
BOXES / 96 minutes / Rene Besson (USA)
CARMA COMA / 8 minutes / EntitiFilm (India)
PACKAGE FROM THE FILM COUNCIL UK / 110 minutes / various (UK)
BIKE RIDE / 6 minutes / Tom Shroeder (USA)
PERFECT DAY / 100 minutes / Nishit Saran (India)
Shakthi / 35 minutes / Sunil Poovely (India)
ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN / 90 minutes / Todd Verow invited
MIRAGE / 10 minutes / Rajesh Hebbar (India)
FORTE TOY / 2 minutes / Ram Madhvani (India)
PURGATORY / 7 minutes / Michael Frank (Australia)
SLEEP / 10 minutes / Siddhartha Kelkar (India)
FOUR ZERO FIVE / 11 minutes / Bruce Branit (USA)
IMAGE / 10 minutes / Viveck Budakoti (India)
FREEFALLING / 5 minutes / Mayank Jain (India)
TAKI NAKI / 4 minutes / Nishant Goyal (India)
KAMPKAPI / 2 minutes / Gauri Patwardhan (India)
MONDAY MORNING / 6 minutes / Karan Singh (India)
SMALL TOWN HEROES / 17 minutes / SplitEnds (India)
URF PROFESSOR / 120 minutes / Pankaj Advani (India)
DAY TWO, 28TH MARCH 2001
HOUSE OF MEMORY / 78 minutes / Chris Mitchell (UK)
PRISON SCARS / 45 minutes / Bernd Reufels (Germany)
A SMALL MIRACLE / 80 minutes / Kenneth Bi (Hong Kong)
GOS OF TIMES SQUARE / 60 minutes / Richard Sandler (USA)
GODASS / 90 minutes / Esther Bell (USA)
THE END / 4 minutes / Pushkar AKS & Gayatri (India)
I WATCHED YOU FALL / 11 minutes / Ruchi Bakshi (India)
SPOT ON LITERACY / 2 minutes / Monisha Chatterjee (India)
HOLUD THE WASTELAND / 10 minutes / Rajashe Das (India)
FEAR THIS / 7 minutes / Mrigdeep Lamba (India)
ELEVATOR ETIQUETTE / 13 minutes / Karan Anshuman (India)
ANOKHA / 20 minutes / Sudipto Sarkar (India)
UNTITLED / 51 minutes / Abhunday Khaitan (India)
P.O.V. / 12 minutes / Ayesha Sood (India)
STROKE / 97 minutes / Rob Nilsson invited film (USA)
MATRIMONIALS.COM / 52 minutes / Krishna (USA)
CAMERA, DOGMA15 / 83 minutes / Rich Martini (USA)
DAY THREE, 29TH MARCH 2001
EURO UNDERGROUND PACKAGE / 90 minutes / various (EU)
RAMLILA / 28 minutes / Subhash Kapoor (India)
TANZRAUM / 30 minutes / Uli Plank (Germany)
"9392888" / 30 minutes / Vishwajyoti Ghosh (India)
6 EASY PIECES / 68 minutes / Jon Jost invited film (USA)
DIVYA DRISHTI / 120 minutes / Sidharth Srinivasan (India)
SHAWL / 30 minutes / Muzaffar Ali (India)
MOTTUKKA / 52 minutes / B. Lenin (India)
DAY FOUR, 30TH MARCH 2001
CANADIAN PACKAGE / 52 minutes / Claude Paquet (Canada)
IT'S FOR YOU / 102 minutes / Bruno Pacheco (Canada Spain)
PAPPA & JAG / 39 minutes / Linda Vastrik (Sweden)
MY FRIEND SU / 57 minutes / Neeraj Bhasin (India)
KALAMA SUTTA / 96 minutes / Holly Fisher (USA)
PANDAVAS / 90 minutes / Pentamedia Graphics Invited
Ambadeep Building (21st flr.)
Kasturba Gandhi Marg
New Delhi 110 001 (India)