The Festival Refreshed: A Personal Story of Indian Film Festivals: Episode 1

You don’t come to Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival with Star to see a film, you come to experience it!

Thus opened the press announcement of 18th Mumbai Film Festival, organized by Jio MAMI. The trouble is people are so used to watching films on tabs and fablets, let alone the bigger screens of laptop an desktop monitor (LED and personal projection frames are really bigger), that the fantasy of 70 mm screen - the unforgettable immersion in to the larger than life scenario - is a thing of the past. One can have a retrophilic sensation, a nostalgia, for that. But, I doubt if anybody really misses that any more, except for a handful of us in every culture.

Contemporary FHD and UHD OLED TV sets offer an angle of view with a clarity on articulation (29000 : 1 contrast ratio, or more as advertised for the most expensive ones) that can, supposedly, show 29000 different tones of gray at the same time, on the TV screen, between full black and full white. This is a close competitor for the best movie screens with 14 ft-lambert reflection (the ideal for Digital Cinema Projections) with the same angle of view. There are two angles of view - one is horizontal and the other is vertical. We see more to the left and right, than to the top and bottom. We tend to see more like a Cinemascope screen, naturally.

There is one difference between watching a film on the LED TV set and watching the same film in a theatrical projection, though. As the Aspect Ratio (the shape of the image - more squarish frame, or more rectangular) changes, Cinema hall screens do not change the height of the image. They extend the frame to the left and right for more visible area on the sides, keeping the height same. In the darkness of the theater, the unused part of the screen, on the sides, is not visible. So, we do not see the sides of the image as pillarboxed when the Aspect Ratio is lower (i.e. the screen is less wide) than the Cinemascope. Movie theater screens are made in the Aspect Ratio of the Cinemascope. However, when a wide format film is played on the TV, the wider format must fit the not so wide TV screen. Letterboxing is the usual way out. But, we tend to notice the black parts (called leaders) above and below the frame. 

This makes us conscious about the frame. Immersion in to the film is not possible, as a result. 

People still come to the cinema halls for that immersive experience. But, people come with the TV experience that they inculcated since childhood.

With the availability of bigger TV screens, 3D TV sets without specs, and most importantly, the continuously improving VR head-gears, become common. 

The digital-piracy-based (and through legally obtainable, such as Netflix) cinephilia draws more people to the viewing of an ever-growing platter of motion picture images. People watch movies everywhere, including crowded trains. 
A Cartoon by Sanket Ray

But, this pushes the tendency of homogeneity. Cinema is becoming an unconscious tool for socialization more, and a tool for conscious thinking less. In other words, cinema becomes a major tool for political appropriation in the hands of the children of popcorn culture.

People go to festivals to wallow in pools of coke (so far beer is not allowed in Indian halls) with floating popcorn and chips around. Cinema halls make their profit more from food, than from tickets. We all know that since the birth of the multiplexes in this country.

It is not likely that a few MAMI, or a handful of MFFs across the country, can change that!

Jio MAMI presents the 18th edition of Mumbai Film Festival from 20 - 27 October, 2016. This is the only Indian film festival to keep the registration open till the last date.

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