With a four-day festival dedicated to cinema, the much anticipated eighth edition of the Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival (BVFF) captivated viewers in Guwahati from December 14th to December 17th. Following a three-year break with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was back with an incredible program of documentaries, short films, and feature films. For both budding and seasoned filmmakers, the BVFF 2023 promised to be a holistic cinematic experience, providing a forum for education, networking, and inspiration.
Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival celebrated Indian Cinema and gave their pitches to the OTT giant Amazon Prime
The four-day festival featured panel discussions such as “Beyond the Big Screen“, moderated by Murtaza Ali Khan, that featured independent filmmakers Sanjay Bhutiani and Leena Yadav. They discussed challenges and successes, such as Bhutiani’s “Mukti Bhawan” and Yadav’s Netflix documentary “House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths“. The conversation delved into the role of OTT platforms, the importance of audience support, and the financial realities of independent filmmaking. Bhutiani and Yadav emphasised the need for a supportive distribution model in India, showcasing a commitment to regional cinema. Despite challenges, both filmmakers expressed optimism for the future of independent cinema at the ongoing BVFF in Guwahati. Leena Yadav highlighted struggles, even with an Oscar-winning star, for her upcoming film “Cowgirl’s Last Ride“.
Ronnie Lahiri, an acclaimed Hindi film producer of movies like Vicky Donor and Piku, also participated in a panel discussion at the 8th Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival. Lahiri emphasised that a blockbuster isn’t just about star power but capturing a universal essence. He highlighted the importance of quality over box office numbers, shared insights on prudent film production, and encouraged Indian cinema to embrace originality. Lahiri also reflected on his journey, urging new filmmakers to blend independent ideas with commercial appeal for success. Narrates struggles, including the Mumbai floods of 2005 washing away his first film “Yahaan” and legal troubles with “Shoebite,” before finding success with “Vicky Donor“.
The 8th Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival (BVFF) marked a historic moment with the inaugural Prime Pitch session in Northeast India. In collaboration with Amazon Prime Video, the session received 47 diverse pitches, showcasing the creative depth of the region. Twelve shortlisted ideas were presented to Amazon Prime executives, fostering local storytelling and cinematic talent. Amazon’s Sahira Nair praised BVFF for its role in connecting filmmakers and providing exposure to local talent. The event celebrated creativity, emphasising the festival’s vital role in promoting regional cinema post-COVID-19. The success of BVFF and the Prime Pitch session was attributed to the dedicated efforts of Festival Director Tanushree Hazarika and the organising team members, including Pallavi Chumki Barua, Samujjal Kashyap, Karma Paljor, and Bjorn Deniese.
Krishna D.K. and Suman Kumar, known for their successful web series like The Family Man, participated in a panel discussion on ‘Mastering the Evolving Landscape of Web-Series’ at BVFF. They highlighted the need for a deep understanding of subjects in web series due to their extended durations. The duo playfully cautioned against binge-watching, urging viewers to pace themselves. They delved into the creative process, emphasising collaborative screenwriting and the episodic nature of web series. Raj & DK revealed their strategy for engaging audiences and discussed their unique approach to project selection, emphasising the importance of honesty in crafting successful narratives. They also touched on the significance of local context in storytelling. Suman Kumar highlighted that screenwriting is a collaborative effort, transforming words into captivating visuals and performances.
Binge Watching is a bad habit-Masterclass by film director Krishna D.K
Krishna D.K. mentioned Citadel India, starring Varun Dhawan and Samantha Ruth Prabhu. Suman Kumar spoke about his directorial debut, Raghu Thatha, a Tamil film about a woman’s fight against patriarchy. Krishna D.K. commended BVFF for championing cinema in Northeast India and providing a platform for diverse voices, expressing gratitude to Festival Director Tanushree Hazarika.
The third day of the Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival (BVFF) featured screenings of classics like Satyajit Ray’s “Joy Baba Felunath” and contemporary films like Shivadhwaj Shetty’s “Koramma” and Pranab Jyoti Sharma’s “Ojah the Rhythm of Life.” Documentary screenings included Utpal Borpujari’s “Mask Art of Majuli” and Bobbeeta Sharma’s “Jnanada: Reflections of Light and Shade”.
Engaging Q&A sessions with filmmakers titled “Assamese Cinema and its Commercial Potential.” Participants: Jatin Bora, Utpal Borpujari, Barsha Rani Bishaya, Monjul Baruah, and Shyam Bora.
Moderated by Nandini Sharma, the discussion explored challenges and opportunities for Assamese cinema and offered insights into production details and themes.Krishna D.K. conducted a masterclass on “Binge Worthy Stories: The Art of Long Format Web Series” Ketki Pandit’s masterclass explored “Personal to Universal: The Journey of Lived Experiences to Screen. Presented two short films: “Pehla Cycle” by Ritika Chauhan and “Hymns of the Forest” by Pratik Maitra. Dr. Milind Damle continued the workshop on ‘Introduction to Filmmaking,’ offering comprehensive insights into various facets of film production.
Day 3 highlighted cinema’s ability to transport audiences, spark meaningful conversations, and inspire creativity. Diverse offerings and insights from industry experts left the audience enriched and eager for more.
The festival also hosted acclaimed filmmaker Prakash Jha, who conducted an illuminating masterclass, sharing insights into his cinematic journey and philosophy. Originating from Bihar, Jha discussed his commitment to portraying societal narratives, recalling the ban on his documentary “Faces After the Storm”. Emphasising cinema’s interdisciplinary nature, he described it as an assimilation of sciences and arts. Jha addressed challenges in socio-political filmmaking, stressing the enduring power of dialogue and artistic expression. By highlighting collaborative filmmaking, he encouraged diverse perspectives. The masterclass celebrated the continuous evolution of films, inspiring attendees to engage in impactful storytelling.
The festival concluded with a tribute to late actor Jayanta Das and showcased impactful films like “Follower” and “Nine Hills One Valley”, addressing societal and regional challenges. The closing ceremony honoured actress Mridula Baruah with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Awards were presented for Best Short Film, Best Documentary Film, Best Director, and Best Feature Film. The festival’s expansion included separate competitions for feature and documentary films, fostering diversity. BVFF ended with a panel discussion and the screening of “Footprints on Water,” promising future cinematic enrichments.
The 8th Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival (BVFF) concluded with a captivating awards ceremony, celebrating excellence in various categories. Ronald Hussain received the Best Short Film award for “Sneakers (Neela Joota)”, while Utpal Borpujari won Best Documentary Film for “Mask Art of Majuli”. Manoj Shinde was honoured as the Best Director for the Marathi film “Valli”, and Nathalia Syam’s “Footprints on Water” secured the Best Feature Film accolade. The esteemed jury panel, including Utpal Datta, Rita Meher, Murtaza Ali Khan, and Prof. Asha Kuthari Chaudhuri, praised the emotional impact and diversity of Northeast Indian cinema.
Filmmakers expressed gratitude for the recognition, with Ronald Hussain thanking everyone involved in his film, Utpal Borpujari acknowledging the festival’s growth, and Manoj Shinde emphasising the award’s significance for independent filmmakers. Nathalia Syam honoured the jury, BVFF, and Adil Hussain for the magic behind her film. The festival expanded its competition categories, including separate sections for feature and documentary films, opening opportunities beyond Northeast India. The closing ceremony featured a panel discussion on “Crafting Authentic Narratives” and screened Nathalia Syam’s debut feature, “Footprints on Water”, starring Adil Hussain. Pallavi Chumki Barua and Samujjal Kashyap conveyed gratitude to participants, the jury, sponsors, and audiences.
Acclaimed filmmaker Prakash Jha and producer Ronnie Lahiri presented the awards, celebrating regional cinema’s diversity and impact. The festival’s expansion to include feature and documentary competitions from all of India reflects BVFF’s commitment to fostering a broader filmmaking community. The event concluded with a panel discussion and a film screening.
The event concluded with the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to veteran Assamese actress Mridula Baruah, the felicitation of Dr. Milind Damle and Ketki Pandit for their contributions to filmmaking education, and a vote of thanks from Pallavi Chumki Barua and Samujjal Kashyap.
The Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival (BVFF) has emerged as a noteworthy platform for cinema in India, playing a pivotal role in fostering the new-age filmmaking movement. The Film Festival has not only become a significant event for filmmakers in India but has also solidified its position as a platform that actively contributes to the evolution of cinema, providing a conducive environment for learning, networking, and inspiration.