Monday, May 05, 2008

A film festivaler

I wrote this sitting in a theater chair, at the MAMI 10th international film festival, just before a screening began.

I’m back where I belong, doing what I love best, living through (what was earlier) a dream –watching films back to back. And what an ambiance! This film festival has been another occasion for me to blossom and grow. The evolution has been from the cramped cardboard box life into a dark room full of strangers all enthralled by the flickering image on the large screen. The familiar smells bestir memories from film festivals gone by, from times when I was younger and excited out of my mind to be volunteering. The smell of popcorn is omnipresent. Like heady wine it transports me into another world. This world is cathartic, a purging of my worries of la vie quotidienne. For a couple of hours I exchange my life for someone else’s, snug in the knowledge that however bad it is it will eventually end. I sit wide eyed and absorb the narrative as my bottom grows numb and my mind travels far away.

As every movie ends, the audience bustles around and rearranges themselves at a new screen. Ah! The audience! Strangers but bound by a common thread for the duration of the festival. Familiar strangers from festivals gone past, new friends made from the previous day’s marathon viewing. It’s all part of this “double life” every cinephile leads. The ingrained urge to be a voyeur manifesting itself even more strongly with these film enthusiast types.

The surge of the smallish, but intellectually bound crowd is exhilarating. All for the common goal of viewing someone else’s opinion and life presented on reel. Any avid film festival regular with moderate powers of observation will deduce the clear cut “types” of people that attend.

First, you have the Makers –people who are here because they make films, or have a film that’s being screened. So you have actors, directors, producers… the lot. They add the glamour. The second type is the ‘contact’ people. They are here solely for business purposes, to enlarge their network. So you have distributors, marketers and that set. They add the element of “commerce”. The third are the cinephiles, people who love cinema and come to the festival just for the sake of watching films. They add character to the festival. Students are the fourth type – students from colleges, students of film etc… all here to be amazed by the work of their seniors, peers etc. here to get a toe-hold in this mad world of filmmaking. It fascinates them so much they don’t see themselves doing anything else. The fifth type is the “wanna-bes”- the “I have an image to portray” people who don’t give tow farthings for cinema.

If you observe the crowd in the interval between films, they are all milling around, trying to look like they have something to do, others consulting their catalogues or schedules debating the better movie. There are others indulging in pseudo-intellectual conversations of movies they’ve just seen or directors they love. You see the press running after celebrities for sound bytes. The hungry fill their stomachs with class A-carry able inside- junk food. When you watch people come out of the theater after a screening, you’ll observe their shuffling gait, the blood rushing back to their legs after sitting on their now numb bottom, a little disoriented from emerging into light from dark, thoughtful as if absorbing and collecting their thoughts about the movie. You’ll see the organizers walking around congratulating themselves on a job well done.

That’s why, this is where I belong. I live from festival to festival, in this separate world of mine, switching between a normal person and one transformed, sometimes even my dreams manifest themselves as a movie with opening credits and sometimes subtitles.

In all these film festival “types”, where do I belong? I’m, in reality, all of them, all at once. A truly La Phooey feeling!!! I’m also the silent observer that watches and takes note. In between screenings I mill around. I see familiar faces I smile at.As the slow moving line makes it’s way into the theater, I find myself a suitable place and make myself comfortable. From the beginning to the end, I’m lost to the world and to normal life. The only things that exist are me and the little charade begin played out on screen. Too soon… too soon, the credits begin to roll and the audience claps giving tribute to the filmmaker.

After the closing film, I know my head will begin to throb and I will feel the need to sleep like a drunk. My “waking up” will be comparable to a hang over. Reality will be a little easier to bear; people and places will take on a new significance. There will always be another festival, another time, but each has a separate place in the time-line of my life.

No comments: