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14th Chennai International Film Festival: Long Queues, Undeterred Crowds

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A poster for the film Tamara, currently showcased at 14th CIFF

“Hello, do you know where this queue ends?” 

“Such a long queue! The film must be really good!”

“Was CIFF always this crowded?”

This year, the Chennai International Film Festival (CIFF) is a venue down, and it shows. There is chaos, confusion, and impatience. The Woodlands Theatre complex with its twin screens hosted the film festival for over eight years. But this year, it was unavailable for the new festival dates in January.

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Unsurprisingly, the delegate queue for every screening at the other five venues is longer than ever. Apart from the Russian Cultural Centre, the good-old Casino theatre, the Inox screens at Chennai Citi Centre, and the RKV Film Institute, CIFF also has a new host this year – a screen at the Palazzo, Forum Vijaya Mall. 

“It’s unfortunate that Woodlands isn’t a venue this year. It was initially reserved as a venue, but after the festival was postponed to January, owing to the demise of the Chief Minister, we couldn’t book the theatre for the scheduled dates,” said festival director E Thangaraj. “But we have increased the number of shows from four to five daily. And we have screenings at Palazzo which has a seating capacity of around 300. That has solved the problem quite a lot,” he said.

He also said that this year the participation of film union members was unprecedentedly large. However, there will not be as many events, discussions, and Q&A sessions at the festival. “We are trying to organise an event or two. Earlier, Woodlands used to be the chief venue of such events. This year, we don’t have a convenient space to host events on the side,” said Thangaraju.

CIFF opened on Thursday with the screening of the Italian documentary Fire At Sea. The film is about the ongoing refugee crisis and won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2016. In total, 150 films from 52 countries will be screened at CIFF, which comes to a close on January 12. Organised by the Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation, a non-profit organization, CIFF is supported by the Tamil Nadu state government, which granted it Rs 50 lakhs this year. 

Day 2 Highlights: Tamara Wins Rave Reviews

Acclaimed Venezuelan director Elia Schneider’s Tamara drew some of the longest lines at the second day of the festival. Tamara is a biopic of Tamara Adrian, an LGBT rights activist and the first transgendered person elected to the National Assembly of Venezuela. The film is a portrayal of the intense physical and emotional trauma the protagonist goes through as she comes to terms with the fact that she is a woman trapped in a man’s body. Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways had a similar plot, but Schneider’s film is gutsier, less flamboyant, and motivated by facts more than emotions. Tamara Adrian had attended the World Premiere of the film at the International Film Festival Of Goa this year.  

Other films that drew delegates in large numbers were After The Storm, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda’s latest film, director Koji Fakuda’s family drama Harmonium, the Finnish drama The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, and director Fatih Akin’s 2014 genocide drama The Cut

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