The prestigious Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) is back and this time apart from shorts and documentaries, for the first time ever, animation films too will be part of the festival. The screening is set to be held from 28 January to 3 February in 10 different cities across India wherein Mumbai will be the permanent venue of the festival. Having begun in 1990, the festival has grown tremendously and this will be the 14th edition as MIFF is held every consecutive year. This biennial festival is conducted with the active collaboration of Government of Maharashtra and the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association. With the animation space growing at tremendous rate, MIFF finally recognised its importance and this year onwards animation content will also be on the festival program list. Entries from across the globe pertaining to animation shorts and features have been received and to get a broader perspective on how MIFF is going to benefit the Indian animation industry and who will be judging it, we got in touch with MIFF director, Mukesh Sharma. Talking on why it took so long for MIFF to recognise animation, Sharma accepts, “Yes, we agree there’s been a delay in introducing the animation category, but that does not mean we are late. We have received a tremendous amount of response. A total of 53 entries have been selected and some great quality animation can be observed. We are overwhelmed by the response.” MIFF has allocated a total of Rs 55 lakh cash prize to the winners across all genres and categories. Out of the Rs 55 lakh, Animation category has been allocated Rs 8.5 lakh across various categories. Sharma says, “The break-up of Rs 8.5 lakh includes Rs 5 lakh for international competition (Rs 3 lakh best director + Rs 2 lakh producer). Best Animation, Sound design for animation film and PSA (Public Service Awareness) animation film will receive Rs 1 lac each whereas the runners-up get Rs 50,000. Speaking about how important is this festival for the animation industry, he expounds, “No other festival in India offers such a huge cash award in the animation category. MIFF provides an international platform to showcase the Indian content to the world, also the animators in India get a rare opportunity to witness the latest trends in animation from world’s best animators and producers through special packages, retrospectives and classes by masters in the field of animation.” Judging the animation entries will be some of the well recognised personalities from the animation industry which include Gitanjali Rao for International Jury; Biju Dhanapalan for National Jury; Ramesh Meer, Sekhar Mukherjee and Ashish S Kulkarni for New Media and Animation Jury. The content will be judged purely on its cinematic merit and the jury members won’t be judging the categories where their films are nominated. Along with animation, one more category has been added namely Public Service Awareness (PSA). From the numerous entries received, only the best few have been shortlisted for the fest, out of which four animation films went for international competition and 21 animation films on New Media and PSA animation competition. Few films were also seen in other fests like MAMI (four films), ZAGREB (six films) and DRESDEN film fest (eight films) and are included in special packages. MIFF also observes masterclass from renowned animators (whose films will also be seen at the fest) like Luca Raffaelli (14 films) who’s into Italian animation and Reinis Kalnaellis (15 films) who’s into Latvian animation. Biju Dhanapalan will also be conducting master class whereas Gitanjali Rao (six films) will be talking about retrospective. For the first time in the history of MIFF, a mainstream artist Jackie Shroff has been roped in as the brand ambassador of MIFF. This move was taken by MIFF to attract common man’s attention. Speaking about the animation space, Shroff says, “Animation is a huge subject. It’s been a part of our lives since childhood. The famous animated movie The Lion King touched me deeply and made me cry even though it had no real life characters. I believe Indian animation industry will be a driving force in the near future.” When asked about what one will get to see in future at MIFF, Sharma further adds, “Currently, MIFF takes place once every two years and we are in talks with the ministry to conduct MIFF every year so that the momentum isn’t lost. Also, we are in talks on showcasing shorts before any feature film, giving impetus to the documentary and animation space.” The opening of MIFF will include an animated short The Present that’s from USA along with other live action documentaries and shorts. Approximately the budget of the festival is around Rs 4 crores wherein this time the films will be showcased within the Film Division space rather than in theatres. There will also be Film and DD Hub wherein filmmakers will get to interact one on one with investors along with industry professionals wherein round table sessions will also be conducted. The opening and closing function will be held at Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi. With the Indian animation industry growing day by day and producing some brilliant animation, along with a long list of entries it has received, it will be a tough call for the jury members to select the winners at the 14th Mumbai International Film Festival.