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Fuelled by passion

The Hyderabad International Film Festival is knocking on the city's doors. For the film clubs, though, survival is still a struggle. SANGEETHA DEVI. K explores


BIG PICTURE Documentaries and international films will be screened in mainstream cinema halls for HIFF

Everybody loves a good film. What defines a good film, though, is subjective. If mainstream commercial cinema is your cup of tea, the avenues are aplenty. If you want something offbeat, you'll either catch a critically-acclaimed film that's being screened for just one show a day at a multiplex or look out for occasional screenings at the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL), Goethe Zentrum, Alliance Francaise, film clubs like the Hyderabad Film Club, Documentary Circle and Moving Images.

The first Hyderabad International Film Festival (HIFF), to be held from March 23 to 29, has rekindled the enthusiasm of documentary and short film lovers. Ardent film buffs are hoping to catch a glimpse of world cinema and documentaries in cinema halls, which are usually out of reach for documentaries. Hyderabad does have film clubs like Short Cuts and Films Anonymous dedicated to short films; but the two clubs have shelved their monthly screenings for now and are planning to hold year-end film festivals. Dearth of amenities and the reluctance of Hyderabadis to pay up membership fees are being cited as the prime reasons.

As N.M. Pasha of Short Cuts puts it, "The Mocha club in Mumbai was started with an idea to promote independent cinema. The club has been successful in finding sponsors and continues to cater to a small audience. Here, we were successful in conducting screenings for 300 to 400 people for the first few months. We found the enthusiasm diminishing after we announced our plans to go in for memberships. Organising free screenings in five-star hotels involves money, for which you need sponsors. Not many corporates in Hyderabad support offbeat events." Further, he cites the lack of enough screening halls for independent cinema, a thought that is echoed by other film clubs as well.

"The city has a singular lack of imaginative spaces compared to cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai," laments Aparajita Sinha, of Moving Images. The club organises screenings at varied venues - Prasad Preview Labs, Secunderabad Club and Naandi Foundation to name a few. "The mainstream cinema halls are not open to the idea of screening films for a small audiences. Alternatively, there's the Prasad Preview Labs, equipped with good sound and video facilities and can seat around 100 people. To organise a screening at the preview labs means having to shell out around Rs. 3000, which includes the hall rent, invitations and other expenses. This is possible only when a film club is supported by its members who pay a fee," she adds.

The Hyderabad Film Club and Documentary Film Circle are supported by members who, over the years, attend screenings merely driven by their love for films than for the food, cocktails and gupshup associated with events in leading hotels.

As Pasha explains, "The city has an audience for offbeat cinema but people have to be open to the idea of subscription. Tentatively we've planned to conduct a festival for short films by the end of the year. The months between September and December is the time for film festivals in India and you'd find a number of film-makers travelling to attend various festivals."

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