UPDATE, 02/28, 05:30AM: Organizers of the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) have responded to an open letter published last week by a collection of Indian filmmakers criticizing the decision to not hold physical screenings at this year’s event.
In a statement, the fest said they “feel the disappointment of the filmmakers” and that the move had been a “last resort”. They added that a key sponsor had pulled out of the event. Below is the statement in full.
“We feel the disappointment of the filmmakers. The last two years have been very hard on the filmmaking community. Similarly, we as an academy, all our benefactors, collaborators, and partners have also suffered. Amongst many things, we have had an associate sponsor discontinue their partnership with us. While that has put accumulating pressure on us, we also understand the difficulties of our partners.
“For us, cancelling an edition of the festival is the last resort. If we do not do an edition, we have nothing to show for our existence so it is a decision that has been taken after deep deliberation and with immense sadness. As an immediate solution for our filmmakers, we have, at their request, announced our official selection and have organized a digital screening of the films. We had extended this option to all our filmmakers.
“We are thrilled to say that the films currently screening are clocking significant viewership and media attention. We are all filmmakers and artists ourselves. We are working on a plan to manage a physical screening for films in our selection that do not screen in India in the near future. Whenever that is possible, we will get in touch and work with the filmmakers to make it happen. But we do not, as we have said repeatedly, want to make promises we cannot keep. We have never requested any of our filmmakers to make choices in our favor or to hold back from whatever they feel is the best platform for their film and we do not want to do it now.
“MAMI is grappling with a lot of challenges right now. In this moment of transition, we request for your understanding and support. We will come back stronger and better so that we can strengthen what we have all worked so hard to build across the years together.” – MAMI Board of Trustees and Team
PREVIOUSLY, 02/25, 06:23AM: A collective of filmmakers in India have banded together to protest the cancellation of this year’s Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), addressing their concerns to chairperson Priyanka Chopra.
The event had been due to run March 12-22 but, as reported by Deadline this week, organizers have made the decision to cancel the in-person event and replace it with a series of online screenings across the next two months. The fest cited “logistical and financial challenges” as the reason for the move.
In response, multiple filmmakers, all of whom had been selected to screen new work across the festival’s various strands, published an open letter today criticizing the decision.
“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,” they wrote. “Others had turned down multiple other festivals in India in favor 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.”
The collective added that the offer of digital screenings “did not adequately address our concerns with the fate of our films”.
“We collectively requested a meeting with the organizers to discuss other ways forward, but this request was ignored. We are extremely disheartened by this,” they added.
The letter concludes that the filmmakers are asking for physical screenings to be reinstated, noting that they are not asking for “extravagant organization, awards, or ceremonies”.
The signees of the letter are: 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; Sanal Kumar Sasidharan; and Srishti Lakhera & Bhamati Sivapalan.
Following a significant Covid spike in January, the latest figures of positive cases have stayed consistently low in India in recent weeks, including in Mumbai.
Deadline has contacted MAMI for comment on the open letter.
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