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Into the Animation Mix at the Mumbai Int’l Film Festival (MIFF)

Lisa Goldman was invited to be a judge at the Mumbai Intl Film Festival, where she discovered a new world of animation in the city formerly known as Bombay, the center of Bollywood.

The Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) in India offers up a wonderful masala  fascinating people, entertaining films, prestigious awards with big prize money, parties, amazing food and Mumbai. Courtesy of iStockphoto.

MIFF a masala or a mix of all thats wonderful in a film festival fascinating people from all over India and the world, intriguing and entertaining films, prestigious awards with big prize money, parties galore with amazing food and it all takes place in a truly exciting location Mumbai.

Why MIFF-2008 for Me? And My Mission

On a very hot day in New York City during the summer of 2005, I received an email inviting me to be part of the International Jury for the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF-2006). A judge at MIFF-2006 wow I had never done anything like this before. I was honored by the invitation and quite excited to go to India. I took the heat of the day as a sign from the Universe that this was my time to go to India and emailed back my acceptance. Let me tell you, MIFF-2006 became one of the most wonderful adventures of my life.

However, one of my few disappointments was the discovery that there were so few entries from the U.S. into this festival as in the number six few. And none of these were in the animation category. I am now on a mission to remedy this situation, at least in the animation category. I plan to put the word out wherever and however I can to encourage animation filmmakers to enter MIFF-2008! It may seem a bit early now because the deadline for entries is probably not until 2007 but I wanted you to have enough advance notice in case you want to make a new animated film or to have the time to finish one.

Lisa Goldman discovers the unique world of Mumbai and MIFF at the Gateway to India. All photos courtesy of Lisa Goldman.

Why MIFF-2008 for You?

Besides my mission, there are a few other good reasons for considering MIFF. MIFF is rated the worlds third largest International Film Festival for documentary, short, and animation films. MIFF-2008 will be the 10th festival in its history and this festival has grown in size and stature since it began in 1990. MIFF also offers the biggest prize money in this genre of festivals $60,000 given across various categories. This prize-money could be helpful in paying off either your film or travel expenses. Along with the prize money, come trophies made of (real but not sure of the karat count) gold for the first prize, The Golden Conch Award, and silver for the second prize, The Silver Conch Award. These two awards are given in each category. As you may have already guessed by the names of these awards, the trophies are in the shape of a large conch shell. I think these trophies are exceptionally beautiful.

Youll be in excellent company. MIFF attracts distinguished filmmakers, film critics, academicians, dignitaries and journalists from all over India and the world. This is a festival that has always been receptive to experimentation in both form and content and recognizes technological advancement. MIFF has become a bridge between different societies and ideas, serving as a platform to promote the spirit of creativity and search for excellence. In MIFF-2006, the international submissions came from 30 countries.

At each MIFF event, a veteran documentary filmmaker is awarded the prestigious Dr. V. Shantaram Lifetime Achievement Award. Ram Mohan was the recipient for MIFF-2006. This was a joyous surprise for me, because, over the past few years, Ive become friends with Ram, his wife, Sheila and his son, Kartik (also a talented animator in New York City). Mohan is considered to be the father of animation in India and has been animating for over 50 years. Presently, Ram is the chairman & chief creative officer of Graphiti Multimedia Pvt. Ltd.

Lisa Goldman on a rice boat in Kerala. This could be you if you apply to MIFF-2008!

Mohan, along with Graphiti, have recently started the Graphiti School for Animation in Mumbai. Here, Mohans inspiration continues. After MIFF-2006, I was lucky enough to be asked by Mohan to teach a two-day workshop on how to write for animation. I too was able to be part of his school the first class and it was an experience that changed me forever. Its an exciting time for animation in India, everyone wants to produce their own content to distribute in India and internationally. There has been recent success with independent features and television series.

Back to MIFF Because Its Fun!

Ive never been to any other international film festival so I do not have anything to compare my experience to. I think my experience was wonderful because of the people I met. There were filmmakers from all over India and the world. If you have a film entered, youll be at the venue of the film festival, which was well attended and located in Mumbai. I heard the audiences were great. Most nights there were parties given either by MIFF or a local filmmaker or sponsored by companies. There is plenty of time during the festival to get to know people. There were many people who attended MIFF who had films entered. They also took full advantage of this opportunity and traveled around India either before or after MIFF. India will truly capture your heart in ways that will surprise you.

I even had an its a small world moment at the festival venue. A man from Canada approached me and told me that he grew up with Patti Stren author, illustrator and creator of an animated film called, Mona Mon Amour, produced by Michael Sporn. I had brought some animated films from Women In Animation New York filmmakers to show and he saw Patti Strens name in the program.

As a juror, my experience was a bit different during the days, but we still managed to get to the festival venue and parties in the evenings. During the days, we were sequestered away to review 55 films: viewing time just about 32 hours. This gave the International Jury plenty of time to get to know one other. My fellow jurors were all documentary filmmakers who came from the U.K., Finland, Japan and India. I happened to be the only writer, woman and the only one who had never been on a jury before. I believe that is how I wound up to be chairperson, which meant I had to give a speech at the closing ceremonies.

I was asked at a press conference if I had experienced any kind of a gender gap being the only woman on our jury. My answer and the truth was no. The only gap we had was a cricket gap. Believe me, there wasnt much cricket played in Nutley, New Jersey where I grew up but I wasnt the only one on our jury who didnt know a thing about cricket other than the players wear white. When you go to India, brush up on the cricket because that subject enters into many conversations and films. Indians are passionate about cricket. Thank goodness our jurors from the U.K. and India were patient enough to get the rest of us almost dangerous on the topic. Everyone on our jury had a terrific sense of humor, which certainly helped as we muddled our way through. We took our viewing quite seriously and we watched every second of the films that were on our schedule.

It was such a treat to watch so many documentaries. I learned about the worlds issues in ways that just dont happen from reading newspapers (which I also love to do). Unfortunately, we only had four animated films to review. We did not feel they were of the standard to award the first prize, The Golden Conch Award, and we had a tie for the second place award, The Silver Conch Award. The animation film submissions from India were supreme.

It was also wonderful to meet the national jury. One day at lunch, a swarm of jungle bees decided to invade the terrace where both juries ate lunch. We all bonded quickly in various hideaways as we waited for the bees to get bored with us and leave. It seemed that every moment you are meeting a fascinating person. It cant be helped. I learned so much about filmmaking from my new cohorts.

Mumbai itself is amazing. I think it makes New York City seem like a whisper. I would love to stand outside and watch it all happen so many tiny cars mixed in with trucks, ox-drawn carts, stray cows, and motorcycles. There are traffic rules sometimes. And people are everywhere! Its a city of extremes wealthy and poor, new world vs. old world it all happens in the same place, at the same time. There is something so exciting about the energy of Mumbai its hard to put into words. Most of what I learned about India was through the films we watched since the jury was mostly in a screening room. At the end of the festival, there was more time to explore Mumbai and afterwards, I met up with dear friends in Kerala, a southern state of India. You gotta go, thats all I can say!

Amazing Things to Know about the Films Division

The Films Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, organizes the festival in collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra. Raghu Krishna held the position of director of MIFF-2006 and he watched over this festival like an overprotective father. At the opening and closing ceremonies of the festival, Krishnas cricket-playing skills were mentioned often although I believe he is retired now - but the gist was that hes a very good player besides knowing how to put on one amazing film festival. V. Packirisamy, who is nicknamed Swamy for good reason, because he coordinated MIFF-2006, along with having to produce four documentaries that same year. He has to be a swamy to accomplish what he did.

Producers working for the Films Division must produce four documentaries per year and the Films Division produces about 100 documentaries per year. I believe my statistics are correct, as I dont want to be spreading rumors. The international and national juries screen films on the campus of the Films Division. It is a lovely, seemingly tranquil place where lots of hard work happens around the clock. Many filmmakers in India have learned their craft at the Films Division. If you ever visit the Films Division campus in Mumbai, make sure you say hi to two special dogs named, Dharma and Karma.

How to Apply?

You can get entry forms and learn about the rules and regulations of the festival by visiting www.miffindia.org and www.filmsdiviion.org.

Another Important Moment in the Animation World

While I was in Mumbai, the first Women In Animation meeting was held at the Rhythm & Hues Studios India in Mumbai thanks to Saraswathi Balgam, known to all, as Vani. Vani is the director of these studios. Besides the crew from Rhythm & Hues, Anand Pandey from Animation Dimensions also attended. I spent this particular day visiting animation studios in Mumbai. I also visited with Kireet Khurana who heads up 2nz Animation Co.. Hes responsible for Indias first licensed animated character. More fantastic people!

Lisa Goldman heads up the New York City chapter of Women in Animation. Lisa is an animation writer and, most recently, she has been the story editor for the second season of Pilars Adventures, a preschool animated series broadcast on koljunior.com.

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