As the sun sets over the Arabian Sea, casting a golden glow upon the picturesque coast of Panaji here in Goa, the 54th edition of International Film Festival of India also concludes, reverberating the shores with echoes of cinematic excellence and charm. The festival reached its crescendo with a dazzling closing ceremony, attended by a constellation of celebrities, film-makers and luminaries from the film and entertainment domain.
The Persian film Endless Borders directed by Abbas Amini received the Golden Peacock award for the Best Film at the 54th IFFI. The film depicts that the emotional and moral borders that you impose upon yourself can be more complicated than the physical borders, observed the jury.
Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev is honoured with Silver Peacock for Best Director for his film Blaga’s Lessons. Stephan Komandarev tells a powerful and shocking lesson through the character of a woman who has to decide to achieve her goals and in doing so compromise her values, reads the Jury’s citation. Eli Skorcheva and Rozalya Abgaryan actresses of Blaga’s Lessons received the award on behalf of Stephan Komandarev. Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Turkish Director Nury Ceylan, Australian Film Producer Helen Leake and Film Actress Esha Gupta presented the coveted prize.
Iranian Actor Pouria Rahimi Sam has been chosen as the Best Actor for his role in the Persian film Endless Borders, directed by Abbas Amini. The Jury has chosen the actor “for the richness of acting and interacting with his partners, children and adults in challenging shooting conditions.”
French actress, Melanie Thierry is honoured with Silver Peacock for Best Actor (Female) for her exemplary role in the film Party of Fools. The jury remarked that the range of expressions by the actress gives audience with subtlety all the emotions from hope to despair, encountered in her character’s crazy journey. Juliette Grandmont of Institut Francais received the award from Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Film Producer Jerome Paillard and Playback singer and film score composer Hariharan on behalf of Melanie Thierry.
Indian film-maker Rishabh Shetty bagged The Special Jury Award for his critically acclaimed film Kantara. The Jury praised the director’s ability to put across a very important story. “The film, though rooted in its own culture of the forest demons, reaches out to audiences regardless of culture and social status,” the jury cited. Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Spanish Cinematographer José Luis Alcaine and French Film Producer & IFFI Jury member Catherine Dussart presented the award.
Reger Azad Kaya, a promising filmmaker from Syrian Arab Republic, has received the Award for Best Debut Feature Film of a Director for his film When the Seedlings Grow. The jury cited that the film narrates a tale which succeeds in showing us a day in the life of a father, daughter and a lost boy through a succession of small events.
French, British and Greek co-production Drift directed by Anthony Chen received the prestigious ICFT-UNESCO Gandhi Medal. The film which portrays how drifting through life’s uncertainties can lead to unexpected bonds draws the lines of hope and resilience observed the selection Jury.
Legendary Hollywood actor and producer Michael Douglas received the prestigious Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award at the closing ceremony. Receiving the award, Michael Douglas said, “It’s a tremendous honor to receive this award, a career life achievement. When I heard about the award, my family and I were elated.”
The iconic actor added that cinema has the power to unite and transform the people with cross cultural artistic expressions. Highlighting that global language of cinema is global than ever, the two time Oscar winning actor said that the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) is a reminder of magic of movie making and cross cultural artistic expressions, transcending time, language and geographies. Douglas expressed his admiration for the Indian Cinema, saying RRR, Om Shanti Om and Lunch Box are some of his favourite Indian films.
Catherine Zeta Jones, an eminent actress and the wife of Michael Douglas, was also felicitated. Catherine said it was heartwarming to see the generosity and hospitality they received in India.
Panchayat Season 2, directed by Deepak Kumar Mishra received the newly introduced award for the Best Web series (OTT). The series chronicles the life of an engineering graduate who joins as a Panchayat secretary in a remote fictional village of Phulera of Uttar Pradesh due to lack of better job options.
Director of the series Deepak Kumar Mishra, Producer of the series & President of The Viral Fever Tvf Vijay Koshy and Director, Content Licensing, Prime Video Manish Menghani received the award from Goa Chief Minister. Rocket Boys Season 1 directed by Abhay Pannu received special mention in this category.
Delivering a video message at the closing ceremony, Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Sports & Youth Affairs, Anurag Singh Thakur said that the 54th edition of International film festival of India (IFFI 54) was a celebration of unity in diversity, embodying the spirit of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: One Earth, One Family One Future’, bringing together creative minds, filmmakers, cinema lovers, and cultural enthusiasts from across the globe. “The clarion call to embrace the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ given by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being followed in IFFI also. This edition of IFFI was truly extraordinary, filled with notable firsts and ground breaking achievements that showcased the best of filmmaking”, he added.
Highlighting the efforts towards inclusivity and accessibility made by IFFI, the Minister said that films were specially curated for differently abled film-lovers so that they could enjoy the beauty of cinema at big screens with the help of sign language and audio descriptions. “We made sure to include more than 40 movies directed by women, celebrating their talent”, he added.
Congratulating the efforts of National Film Heritage Mission to restore old classics, the Minister said that over 5,000 films and documentaries of multiple languages in the 4K digital format will be restored ensuring that the future generations of Bharat can appreciate, enjoy and be inspired by these great works.
The Minister also emphasized the dual mission of preserving the old and promoting the new. “The ‘Film Challenge’ under ’75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow’ showcased young talents. The films presented by the young creative minds were thought provoking and dealt with a very important topic of protecting and preserving the environment. Notably, 45 of the 75 Creative Minds have already been offered opportunities to present their ideas to leading companies in the sector. The NFDC Film Bazaar expanded its horizons, welcoming a diverse international audience and fostering cross-cultural collaborations. The introduction of the ‘VFX & Tech Pavilion’ and a documentary section showcased innovation and non-fiction storytelling,” he said.
Union Minister Thakur extended his congratulations to Michael Douglas for receiving the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award for 2023 and thanked Catherine Zeta Jones for accompanying him to make the moment special for all at IFFI. He also congratulated the winners of the Golden Peacock Awards and the first ever award for Best Web series (OTT) at 54th IFFI.
Welcoming the guests, Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant said that the 54th IFFI held in Goa has been the journey of discovery of the celebration of artistry and testament of the power of the story telling. “This year’s edition has been testament to our commitment fostering inclusive environment where diverse voices converge and cinematic excellence thrives. The festival has been true reflection of the diversity and vibrancy of the cinema showcasing films from more than 75 countries,” he said.
Dr Sawant also added that the festival is particularly special for Goa as it showed the cultural heritage of the state by providing a platform for the Goan film-makers to showcase their talent and creativity. He added that the participation of Goan film-makers in this year’s film festival is truly remarkable.
Reinforcing the state’s commitment to foreign filmmakers coming for shooting, the Chief Minister said that with the lush green forests, river, waterfalls, villages and terrace rice fields, Goa will be filmmakers’ paradise as it offers a mix of traditional and modern house settings. “Streamline system of shooting films in the state offers hassle-free permissions to access diverse locations. I stand committed to make region of Goa the heaven for film industry. The plan is underway to develop infrastructure providing cutting edge technology and incentivize the international film-makers”, he elaborated.
Chairperson of the International Jury of IFFI Shekhar Kapur said that film festivals are important since it is very important to tell our stories in the context of what is happening around the world amidst conflicts and war. “Our stories are who we are. Stories are fundamentally about being human. Being human is our fundamental aspect. If we tell our stories to each other, people will listen across borders and understand each other”, he added.
NFDC Managing Director Prithul Kumar delivered the vote of thanks. Vice Chairperson, Entertainment Society of Goa, Delilah Lobo, Chief Secretary of Goa Dr. Puneet Kumar Goel, Entertainment Society of Goa CEO, Ankita Mishra, and other dignitaries also participated in the closing ceremony. Mandira Bedi hosted the ceremony which witnessed some stunning performances by star actors like Amit Trivedi and Ayushmann Khurrana.