The LIFF (Ladakh International Film Festival) opened the gates of Ladakh, the northernmost region of India, to national and international film makers, film critics and viewers. The film festival has became an opportunity not merely to watch the best of cinema at the highest possible altitude point (11,500 feet from the sea level), but also an opportunity to see, interact, explore and understand a new land, and a new culture.
It is in this culturally rich and varied Ladakh that an international film festival was organized
It is not that LIFF introduced the cultural side of human life to the people of Ladakh for the first time. People in Ladakh have a long tradition of art and music. People of Ladakh are expert in wood carving, spinning, weaving and painting. The windows of almost every house in Leh have carved wooden frames with intricate designs. Even the modern houses have the same intricate carved frames with Tibetan motifs on them. Looking at the pattern, it can be inferred that the richer the person, the more thick and intricate would be the design of the frame.
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The closing ceremony of the film festival gives a glimpse of Ladakhi music and dance. Various Ladakhi songs and dances are performed by local school students and senior artistes. The performances of various dance forms native to Ladakh, such as Jabro, Chapsken Steis, Cha, and Shondol are a marvellous spectacle to watch. Ladakhis have different dances to celebrate different occasions of life. They have dances to celebrate marriages, child birth, changing season and also the year. In Ladakh, it seemed, every social and cultural event begins with and ends with dance and music. Ladakhis have a rich repertoire of 300 songs with as varying theme as religious, devotional, heroic and love songs too.
It is in this culturally rich and varied Ladakh that an international film festival was organized. The festival was supported by the best of cinematic talent in India. Shyam Benegal was the chairman of the festival and filmmakers of high repute like Govind Nihalini, Jahnu Barua, Shekhar Kapoor, Vishal Bhardwaj, Madhur Bhandharka and film personalities like Deepti Naval and Ravi Kemmu were all associated with the festival in one or the other capacity.
International personalities like Jacob Neiiendam, Derek Malcolm, and Christian Jeunne were also associated with the festival. In the festival around 65 films, both feature films and documentary, from various countries such as France, Belgium, Australia, Turkey, Italy were screened. The festival became a good platform for young Indian filmmakers to interact with overseas filmmakers.
The festival is believed to have given a new lease of life to the Ladakhi film industry which was dying an early death due to lack of funds, current economic conditions and lack of infrastructure.
Inaugurated by Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, LIFF not only brought good quality international cinema in India and filmmakers from across the world together, it also brought people’s attention towards Ladakh and Ladakhi film industry. The LIFF provided a platform for Ladakhi filmmakers to show their films to an international audience. Local people also thronged in large numbers to watch Ladakhi films, a denominator of their love for cinema.
The festival is believed to have given a new lease of life to the Ladakhi film industry which was dying an early death due to lack of funds, current economic conditions and lack of infrastructure. In this context, LIFF became the last ray of hope for local film lovers and film makers as the festival has put this place on the international map once again. Shayam Benegal was of the opinion that to promote film industry in Ladakh, besides money what is needed is training in the art of filmmaking for local film makers and exposure to good national and international cinema. LIFF seemed to have taken steps in both the directions. Various interactive session by filmmakers present during the festival received warm response from the local film enthusiasts.
Last but certainly not the least, LIFF also took steps to spread environmental awareness among the people. During the festival, measures were taken to sensitize people about environmental crisis in the region. The organisers of the festival performed fish plantation in the river Indus a day before the festival started. The awards of the festival were dubbed Snow Leopard Awards, as the animal has been declared as an endangered species. The most coveted premier screening, instead of being called Red Carpet Premier, was also called Green Carpet Screening.
Let’s hope, LIFF not only boosts up the economy of the region, but also plays a pivotal role in saving its environment and film industry.
by Vivek Sachdeva