SUN, SAND AND FILMS
A large tent on the beach serves as a makeshift auditorium. The cool sea breeze and the sound of waves crashing against the shore only enhance the ambienceof a very unusual kind of film festival aptly tilted Bring Your Own Film Festival (BYOFF).
The success ofthe five day festival held on the Puri beach inOrissa, (from Feb 16-20, 2005) is an indication thatofficial patronage is not the only route for promotingfilmmakers. Away from protocol and other formalities, it is indeed a dream come true for debutante film makers whose films find a place for
screening. As the name suggests, there is no official invitation, no selection procedure, no hierarchy – the only requirement being the presence of the film maker and his film. There was space for everyone – right from budding first timers to seasoned, established professionals.
Organised by a group of film enthusiasts from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute Kolkata, the Biju Patnaik Film and Television Institute,
Cuttack, and Inscreen (a Bhubaneshwar based film society) the BYOFF, within a short span of two years as established itself an alternate space for young, sincere film makers. All kinds of films, in different languages and formats find an appreciative audience. The screenings continued late into the night and at times went beyond the confines of the tents, right in open air. As one of the organizers put it – “it is a free floating film festival where freedom of
expression is the focus”. The internet proved to be a blessing as most of the activities involved in organizing the festival and circulating information
relating to BYOFF was done on the net.
It was indeed an unusual inauguration ceremony that kicked off the film festival. Kanak Reddy, a fifty-year old woman, who sells ripe bananas on the
Puri beach and is a favourite with foreign tourists, was asked to cut the ribbon. Needless to say, this rare gesture not only won applause from the
participants and the audience, but also impressed upon them the need to link cinema with ordinary people.
Besides screening of films, the film makers also found an opportunity to interact with other film makers, exchange ideas and opinions, and in general have healthy discussions on cinema. Some of the known namesthat participated in the festival are Sekhar Das (Songs of Mahulbani), Supriyo Sen (Way Back home), Pankaj Advani (Urf Professor), Sanjivan Lal (Is God
Deaf), Souparno Mitra (A wall behind us) and Shekhar Dattatri (The Last Stand of the Ridleys). The audience, mostly students of cinema and film lovers in general from neighbouring Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack and Puri, besides the film makers themselves, had a fill of cinema.
More than 120 films, of different lengths and in different languages were screened at the festival. Last year, a film titled “Breathing Without Air”,
based on the life of juvenile travelling performers who enact daredevil stunts had won much appreciation. Later, it was screened at other International
festivals and adjudged as an award winning short film. “The Last Stand of the Ridleys”, screened this year is a documentary on the large scale deaths of Olive Ridley turtles on Orissa coastline every year. It was therefore not surprising to find that the BYOFF poster depicted the issue in an interesting manner – a turtle with a VHF cassette ambling along the beach. Perhaps,
what sets apart this group is their sensitivity to people, problems and working in reality zones instead of fiction. The festival ended on a positive note of
hope and promise of more exciting films next year.