Mumbai film fest campaign raises $250k

Mumbai Film Festival is on its way to becoming the world’s first social media-supported film festival after raising $250,000 in just two days.

The festival, scheduled to hold its 16th edition October 14-21, has been threatened with closure after a five-year partnership with Reliance Entertainment ended last year and has not been renewed. A sponsorship deal with American Express has also expired.

When news of the closure surfaced, local filmmakers, stars, industry figures and fans of the festival took to Facebook and Twitter last weekend to raise the $824,000 (Rs50m) that is needed for the event to go ahead this year.

The campaign’s banner reads: “5,000 supporters, Rs10,000 each is all it will take. Lets make it happen.” The 16th edition of the festival is scheduled to take place October 14-21.

Among those pledging donations are Cinestaan Film Company, founded by Anand Mahindra and Rohit Khattar; high-profile producer-directors Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Broken Horses) and Rajkumar Hirani (3 Idiots); producers Manish Mundra, Vivek Kajaria and Nilesh Navlakha; director Hansal Mehta and author and critic Anupama Chopra.

Cinestaan, launched in July by the head of the Mahindra & Mahindra conglomerate and Mumbai Mantra chief Khattar, has committed to $100,000 to the festival.

“Anand [Mahindra] and I believe that a festival as important as this should not belong to one sponsor or studio,” said Khattar. “As the youngest film studio, we would appeal to the larger studios, production houses and, in fact, to all film lovers in Mumbai to take joint ownership. This is OUR Festival and even the smallest contribution would help fulfill our mission.”

Organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI), the festival has attracted major talent, including Zhang Yimou, Jane Campion and Asghar Farhadi, and offered cash prizes worth $220,000 each year. The festival’s screenings are usually full, but Indian film festivals are not allowed to sell tickets if they screen films without any cuts.

Mumbai film festival director Srinivasan Narayan said: “Today for the first time ever it truly feels that the Mumbai Film Festival belongs to the patrons and lovers of the festival. I thank each and every one of those who strive to ensure that the festival continues to present the best of world cinema to our Indian audiences.”