The 18th edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival will commence on June 15 with a documentary production market and a celebration of animation. The weeklong, government-funded showcase of documentaries, short films and animated productions includes a DOC Film Bazaar and a selection of animated movies by legendary Czech director Jiri Trnka.

The focus on Trnka will be complemented by animated films from France, Slovenia, Argentina and Greece. The competition section includes Mumbai-based director Vaibhav Kumaresh’s debut feature Return of the Jungle.

Among the masterclasses is a session conducted by American animator Rahul Babu Kannikara as well as a discussion with Kumaresh, Charuvi Agarwal and Ketan Mehta about the process involved in making animated movies. Also in the programme: a presentation by Swiss animation director Georges Schwizgebel, and a discussion on Jiri Trnka’s use of puppets in his craft by French filmmaker Olivier Catherin.

Return of the Jungle.

The international documentary competition includes Sarvnik Kaur’s Against the Tide, about two fishermen struggling to survive in Mumbai, and Nishtha Jain’s The Golden Thread, which explores the few remaining jute mills in Kolkata. Film and Television Institute of India student Chidanand S Naik’s Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know, which picked up the La Cinef award at the recently concluded Cannes film Festival, will also be shown.

Against the Tide.

The festival will be held at the Films Division-National Film Development Corporation complex in Mumbai, with parallel events in Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Delhi. MIFF was launched as a biannual event in 1990, by the Films Division when it was a separate organisation within the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. In 2022, Films Division was among the units that were merged into NFDC, along with the National Film Archive of India and the Children’s Film Society of India.

MIFF will be inaugurated with British filmmaker Charlie Hamilton-James’s Billy & Molly, an Otter Love Story, about the relationship between a wild otter and its rescuer. The event will close on June 21 with a screening of the documentary that wins the top award, called Golden Conch.

Billy & Molly, an Otter Love Story.

Among the jury members are Audrius Stonys from Lithuania, Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck from Germany, and Bharat Bala, Bobby Sarma Baruah and Apoorva Bakshi from India. The list of master classes include presentations by Audrius Stonys and Oscar-nominated editor Ollie Huddleston (Dunkirk, Rough Aunties, The Liberace of Baghdad). There will be a conversation with cinematographer-filmmaker Santosh Sivan as well as a discussion between RV Ramani and Sunny Joseph.

Five restored titles from the national film archive will be screened, including Satyajit Ray’s Pikoo, Santosh Sivan’s The Story of Tiblu and Sandhya Suri’s Around India With a Movie Camera.

Although the largest documentary festival in India, with prize money reaching at least Rs 42 lakh, MIFF has lost its lustre over the decades. Independent documentaries that question power and authority have been ignored in recent years, cutting MIFF off from the transformations and critical debates taking place in the larger documentary landscape.

This year’s theme is “Amrit Kaal”, which reflects the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s ideological framework to describe its policies and programmes. A special award for best short film will be awarded to productions on the subject “India in Amrit Kaal”.

Around India With a Movie Camera.