In an open letter, directors whose films were chosen for the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival’s 2022 edition have protested the cancellation of the event and demanded physical screenings of the selected titles.
The co-signees of the open letter include 16 directors and producers whose films featured in competitive and non-competitive sections. These are as follows: Achal Mishra, Aditya Vikram Sengupta, Faraz Ali, Gurvinder Singh, Haobam Paban Kumar, Himadri Mahesh, Irfana Majumdar, Natesh Hegde, Nithin Lukose, Payal Kapadia, Ranabir Das, Prantik Basu, Rahat Mahajan, Rahul Jain, Srishti Lakhera and Bhamati Sivapalan.
Filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan has added his name to the list in solidarity.
The Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival cancelled the event in early February because of “logistical and financial challenges”, according to communication sent to the participating filmmakers. “Despite our best efforts, it has become untenable for us to hold the festival in March,” part of the communication stated.
In an email to Scroll.in, the event organiser, the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images, said, “We have a larger more over-arching logistical reimagining parked at our doorstep that takes into account the way the world has altered to live between waves. However, we will continue to screen films digitally as part of our year-round programme on our digital screening platform (Shift72).” The festival’s title sponsor is the telecom giant Jio.
Some of the films chosen for the festival are being streamed online this week. In the open letter, the filmmakers, some of whom had withdrawn their projects from other festivals in order to give Mumbai exclusive access, demanded that “MAMI hold physical screenings of our films over a shorter period of time”.
Here is the full text of the open letter.
“We are a group of filmmakers officially selected in the India Story, Spotlight, and India Gold sections of the recently cancelled Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2022.
We have come together to send a public appeal to MAMI as well as to all the people of Mumbai – and supporters elsewhere – who care about independent cinema.
As you may know, the Mumbai Film Festival was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic. The 22nd edition, which would normally have taken place in November 2021, was postponed till 11th to 15th March 2022. On 4th February, 2022, we received an email from the organisers of the festival saying that it had become ‘untenable to hold the festival in March,’ citing ‘continuing pandemic, logistical and financial challenges.’
This news was a great disappointment to us. Some of us were officially selected in the 2020 edition, and had saved our India premieres for two years, waiting for this festival! Others had turned down multiple other festivals in India in favour of MAMI. Some of us had paid submission fees to MAMI. Most of us were counting on the festival to give our films visibility and a unique opportunity to share them with audiences, the industry and market as most of our films will not get distribution in the way commercial films do. None of us has a plan for how to proceed now.
MAMI offered to have our films included in an Official Selection announcement and to be provided a two-day screening window in February or March when our films could be viewed digitally across India. Most of us opted to include our films in the announcement because of MAMI’s prestige and standing, especially in the Mumbai film industry.
The view towards digital screenings was mixed. Either way, this offer did not adequately address our concerns with the fate of our films, or our feeling of discontent with the manner and timing of this decision. We collectively requested a meeting with the organisers to discuss other ways forward, but this request was ignored. We are extremely disheartened by this.
All we ask is that MAMI hold physical screenings of our films over a shorter period of time. We do not need extravagant organisation, awards, or ceremonies but only reasonable slots where audiences across the city can come and watch our films in the theatre.
It has already been a depressing time for filmmakers with so many theatres remaining shut. This would be a great opportunity to turn things around so that we can share our work with the community in the right spirit.
We want to appeal to Priyanka Chopra, the Chairperson, and other Trustees of MAMI, to step up to the plate at this crucial moment and help us keep the spirit of the Mumbai Film Festival – Mumbai’s biggest festival of independent cinema – alive. We would especially like to appeal to the audiences of MAMI who would be keen to have a physical screening and may join our endeavour to make it happen!”
Achal Mishra (Dhuin, India Gold)
Aditya Vikram Sengupta (Once Upon A Time In Calcutta, India Gold)
Faraz Ali (Shoebox, India Story/Spotlight)
Gurvinder Singh (Adh Chanani Raat, India Gold)
Haobam Paban Kumar (Nine Hills One Valley, India Gold)
Himadri Mahesh (Abharkha, India Story/Spotlight)
Irfana Majumdar (Shankar’s Fairies, India Gold)
Natesh Hegde (Pedro, India Gold)
Nithin Lukose (PAKA, Spotlight)
Payal Kapadia & Ranabir Das (A Night of Knowing Nothing, India Gold)
Prantik Basu (Bela, India Gold)
Rahat Mahajan (Meghdoot, India Gold)
Rahul Jain (Invisible Demons, India Gold)
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan (filmmaker)
Srishti Lakhera & Bhamati Sivapalan (Ek Tha Gaon, India Gold/Spotlight).