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Manipuri film bags top award at Mumbai International Film Festival

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MUMBAI: The Manipuri documentary film Phum Shang has won the Golden Conch Award for the Best Documentary Film (upto 60 minutes) at the 14th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Animation and Short Films, which concluded here today.

The Swiss film My Name is Salt and Indian entry Placebo shared the Gold Conch award for the Best Feature length Documentary Film.

Debanjan Nandy’s animation film Chhaya bagged the first prize in the Animation Category of International Competition. Mumbai filmmaker Devashish Makhija’s Agli Baar  shared the Best Short Fiction Film honours with the UK entry Solo Finale by Ingo Putze.

The Dadasaheb Phalke Award for the Best Debut Film of a Director went to Far From Home by Copenhagen, Denmark based film maker Nitesh Anjan.

The Festival organised by the Films Division every second year in collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra and the Indian Documentary Producers Association had commenced on 28 January.

The main awards were given away by Maharashtra Governor Vidyasagar Rao in the presence of Maharashtra Culture Minister Vinod Shreedhar Tawde, filmmaker Ramesh Sippy, brand ambassador Jackie Shroff and Festival director Mukesh Sharma.

Speaking on the occasion, Rao said that he would like documentaries to transform themselves from those for a young India since the average age of the Indian today was 29, which was far below that of the United States or China.

He also wanted the Films Division to explore new talent from remote parts of the country and even economically weaker sections. Rao urged the Division to work with universities and schools in the state to ensure that films are made by students and also shown there.

“The documentary format is important as these films help to understand the complexities of the situation in all parts of the world,” he said.

He wanted Doordarshan to reserve a one-hour slot every week for documentary, short and animation films.

Rao also rooted for more women filmmakers to emerge and said MIFF should encourage innovation and new ideas.

Tawde said that documentaries provoked governments to action when they exposed ills in society and thereby played an important role. “MIFF should be held every year, and the state government can host it in the intervening year in case the Information and Broadcasting Ministry at the centre is not inclined to do so,” he added.

Sippy said that commercial cinema was glamorous but the real challenge lay in making documentary or short films. “This should be encouraged,” he said.

Shroff said he had come into the Festival as the brand ambassador but was leaving as a student who had learnt so much about documentaries and shorts. He also wanted the Festival to be made an annual affair. Answering a question by presenter Sameera Gujjar, he said that commercial films were dreams whereas the documentary were facts. Asked about national and international cinema, he said feelings were the same everywhere.

Biju Dhanapalan who had been a member of the national jury said that special awards should be instituted for investigative documentaries, and those which have archival value, apart from making a strong appeal for restoring the Silver Conch award for the second best film. He also wanted the event to made into an annual feature. He said the national jury saw 27 films.

Ashish Kulkarni, who headed the Animation and New Media Jury, said that films by professionals and students could not be clubbed together and there had to be separate awards for these. He also wanted more awards for new media category. He said that the jury saw 21 animation and 32 new media films and was impressed with the way the filmmakers combined various mediums.

A total of 385 documentaries, shorts and animation films were shown at the Festival from around 20 countries out of the 850 received.

The 52 minute documentary Phum Shang directed by Hao Bam Pabankumar who is an alumnus of the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata, critically examines the serious environmental problems faced at the Loktak lake. The largest fresh water lake in North East India characterised by its unique floating biomass, known as ‘Phumdi,’ is today considered a dying lake due to unchecked human activity. Pabankumar won the Golden Conch Award and a cash prize of Rs 3 lakhs.

My Name is Salt directed by Mumbai born and Zurich based Farida Pacha is a film about the journey of thousands of families to the Rann of Kutch to extract whitest salt in the world. Chandigarh based film maker Abhay Kumar’s 96 minutes film Placebo explores the stress and pressure faced by medical students.

My Name Is Salt also won the Best Cinematographer award for Lutz Konermann, while Placebo, which won the Award for Best Editor, was also declared the Most Innovative Film in the competition section.

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