A total film buff, she took her love for films a step forward, making it her profession. Film Curator Deepti DCunha has been the Indian consultant to Marco Mueller for the Venice film festival, Rome film festival and Silk Road International film festival. She was also the Programmer for two editions of the International Children’s Film Festival of India (ICFFI) and Osian’s Cinefan film festival. And at this time of the year she is all geared up for NFDC’s Film Bazaar after a stellar selection at Jio MAMI 2015.

As the person in charge for the Viewing Room section and Work-in-progress labs, Deepti bears the responsibility to make sure that the selected films are groomed well enough before they see the light of day at the festival.

We had a chat with her to know more about what is happening behind the scenes of Film Bazaar.

Deepti Da Cunha

Deepti Da Cunha

What was the selection criteria for the Documentary and Fiction segments in the Work-in- progress (WIP) Labs?

The most important criteria for WIP labs is that the films have to be roughly cut. Since the main purpose of the lab is to coach and mentor the directors in a way that their final product looks good. The mentors are all internationally acclaimed. Last year we also introduced the Editing lab that helps directors through the practical part of the editing. Mentors identify the issues and give directors feedback on how they can improve it.


Tell us about the mentors for the WIP Labs. How are they finalized and what expertise do they bring to the table?

NFDC takes care to make sure that all mentors come with different skill sets and experiences. All the mentors are internationally well – known in their respective field of work. This greatly helps as the main purpose of NFDC is to help budding filmmakers to make a mark at International film fests. And these mentors have also mentored at other fests and they know how to mould films. One of our oldest mentor is Marco Mueller who is a festival director himself and the producer of No Man’s Land and other award – winning films. Most of our mentors have made remarkable films. Then there is also an editing mentor and a world film agent who gives the filmmakers feedback on how to make their films successful internationally.

So what are the kind of films that one can look forward to? How challenging is the shortlisting process ?

It is extremely difficult as they are not complete films. All we have is raw footage to judge and I have to gauge the potential of the film. While selecting I have to make sure that the film will turn out to be good enough for an international audience too. There are no specific themes and we are open to any and every film coming from India. What is important is the craft of the film and if the filmmaker understands cinema. Another important thing is to know if the film really needs Work-in-progress labs. It is always a mix of everything and most importantly it is the ones that require the labs.

Are there any key factors that you essentially consider while curating content for Film Bazaar?

Criteria is always quality. That’s it. As a curator it is my job to put forth the best films of India. We also make sure there is representation of regions, languages, new ideas etc. We also look at films that need financing since we can help attract investors.


Which films are you personally excited about?

I am actually excited about all. Out of 130 we have selected only five and the real test is what happens after the labs and how well they look at the international fests later on. During the bazaar some do stand out, as a few of the films in the lab are also viewed by the buyers. So by the end of the festival we can tell which are the films that will stand out.

Tell us about the Viewing room section and what can people expect there.

It is the viewing space where films can be viewed on the computer screen and there is a special software that helps buyers filter and watch them. This is strictly for buyers, wholesalers, film agents and promoters and only they are allowed inside the viewing room. It is more of a marketplace. The software is designed in such a way that viewers can filter as debuts, region wise and other criteria. The filmmakers also get an update about who has viewed their films which helps them network through the event. There is also a section for films that need little finance to finish the films. It is called Cap Financing. There is also a curated list to ease the viewing process for the buyers. Practically it is impossible for someone to watch 250 films in for days.

What efforts have been made to invite more international buyers/collaborations?

Film Bazaar has been very successful in its own right in the past few years, so much that we are just reaping the joys of the past efforts. The reputation attracts the best world sales agents and we almost get calls from people waiting to be invited. Many years ago the film industry in India was rather disorganized and that put off the buyer but the easy categorization and this one stop platform has been very successful in addressing this need.


What changes have you observed in the past five years at the bazaar. Any learnings and new additions this year?

Film Bazaar has changed a lot and with each edition it only looks better. There is an intense feedback report after each event and we constantly innovate to make it better. In fact in my 5 years with Film Bazaar and labs, it has considerably changed and all my feedback – be it improving software, new technology, infrastructure, finances etc. have been well received by NFDC. It helps since we all have the same prime goal – that of making the best Indian films get good exposure at International Film Festivals.

-Mili Semlani