Kashmir World Film Festival could be the first step towards revival of cine-culture in Kashmir.
s the second edition of Kashmir World Film Festival (KWFF) kicked off on November 1 at Tagore Hall with the screening of the first Kashmiri feature film Maenz Raath, many in the audience were left nostalgic about the popular hangout that cinemas were once in Kashmir, before the armed insurrection in the late eighties gonged ‘The End’.
The annual carnival is a brainchild of Kashmiri filmmaker Mushtaque Ali Ahmad Khan who heads Actors Creative Theatre (ACT). The five-day cine-fest offered hope of the revival of cinema culture in the Valley.
Seen as mega-success and a huge step towards the revival of theatre and cinema, the event was marked by the presence of many big names from theatre world and Hindi cinema like Rajit Kapur, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Govind Nihalani, Rahat Kazmi et al.
A prestigious award ceremony rounded off the event. The films that won the award include Kerala Paradiso (77 minutes) by Bijoy Lona, Bangaar Bazar (17 minutes) by Muqeet Ul Amin and Sanaa Irshad Matto’s The Lake Town.
On day 1, Khan’s ACT organised a workshop, ‘Introduction to Cinema’, for media students and cinema lovers.
State R&B Minister Naeem Akhtar expressed hope that such events would mark the comeback of cine-culture in Kashmir. “Even Pakistan has cinemas and Saudi Arabia is also opening them now,” said Akhtar.
“I do not know why people do not think about opening cinemas here. The government will surely take an initiative on this, but the whole society has to come together,” he said.
When the cinemas were closed down nearly three decades back in the wake of an armed struggle, the Indian forces turned them into camps and torture centres. All that the cinema aficionados could do all these years was watch movies on VCRs or go out of Kashmir, watch a few films and come back. With internet overwhelming everything and a boom of TV channels, people surely have more options but a longing for cinema halls is very much there.
Film lovers and filmmakers alike express their strong desire to see the cinema halls open again. “There should be theatres in the valley,” said Sanna Irshad Mattoo, “so that youngster can showcase their talent.”
Legendary filmmaker Govind Nihalani said people can watch films on the internet or television, but watching it in a cinema hall is a different feeling. “Small beginnings can lead to bigger changes,” said Nihalani. “We cannot change the past, but can change the future. I think a lot can be achieved.”
Noted Urdu poet Gauhar Raza said Kashmiris needed to tell their own stories rather than rely on outsiders to speak for them. “Such festivals are welcome as they provide a powerful medium for storytelling,” said Raza. “Sometimes, government or other agencies don’t want these institutions to function and we need to fight it,” he said.
Renowned screenwriter and filmmaker Saeed Mirza said the idea was “fantastic” and that there was a need to understand the other side of the Kashmiri people.
“Kashmir is not just a location,” said Mirza, “but it is also people, their lives, their miseries and security nightmares.”
Documentary filmmaker Anwar Jamal said there was a need for reviving cinemas that were closed down some three decades back. “There is also a need to understand the youth who were born in the 90’s,” Jamal said.
The overwhelming response of the audience and experts, many of whom included big names who put in an appearance at the festival, is already motivating Khan to hold more such events in the future. “We never expected such a huge response,” said Khan. “It is a huge morale booster for our future endeavours. We’re definitely looking forward to many such events. We in Kashmir need cinema. We need to tell our stories and cinema is a robust medium. For that, the cinema halls have to open, so that our youngsters are groomed into filmmakers and storytellers.”