TIFF's Cameron Bailey to Indian Filmmakers With Global Aspirations: 'Think Differently' (Q&A)
As a regular visitor to India, Toronto Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey has always been a strong supporter of the country's vibrant film sector. He demonstrated that support earlier this year when TIFF's City to City program showcased films from Mumbai. While visiting the Film Bazaar in Goa, which is organized by India's National Film Development Corporation, Bailey sat down with THR to discuss the Indian film sector's evolution, how it compares with China and why Bollywood stars are having crossover success in Hollywood.
The Hollywood Reporter: There seems to be a new energy around India's indie scene right now. What do you make of this vibe at the Film Bazaar?
Cameron Bailey: I am hopeful for a greater diversity of Indian cinema... There are projects at Film Bazaar which are being made in different regions and languages, some for the first time. That I think has a real richness that can be tapped. The stories of the smaller cultural groups - whether they are tribal communities or far removed from bustling Mumbai – I want to see more of them and that's beginning to happen.
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THR: Is there a unique Indian voice that you are beginning to hear now?
Bailey: That's an interesting question. Political restrictions in a country like Iran have produced a very unique cinema. India doesn't have those kind of restrictions but there could be restrictions of the marketplace which exerts an enormous commercial influence on Indian filmmakers. And this can be as damaging as political restrictions because it limits what you can do. What I like is when filmmakers start engaging with this challenge: they don't accept it or reject but contest it. And that's what happened in Iran. You are right next door to China with a big market and thriving scene.
THR: But it seems China has developed its own voice via its martial arts epics. Do you think India will have multiple voices?
Bailey: Of course, there are so many languages here to start with so India has to have multiple voices. If you look at the India-China comparison a little more, China is usually engaging with historical stories. But in India what you have is a conflict between tradition and modernity. Its in every element of Indian society – from the generation conflict to the rural-urban divide. So if there is a voice then this conflict could be a recurring theme in Indian cinema.
THR: Generally, how is Indian cinema evolving in your opinion?
Bailey: When I started programming Indian cinema in 2005 at Toronto, I saw a kind of split between mainstream Bollywood and the arthouse scene. The big change I have seen since is there are now filmmakers who pay attention to the commercial market but are also making personal films in a more independent way. You see this in western Europe but not so much in India. This is gratifying to see that filmmakers are seeing both sensibiltiies and they know their audiences are not just Indian or the diaspora but global.
THR: How is the international perception of Indian cinema changing?
Bailey: The fact that the head of Fortissimo Films (Michael J. Werner) is here at Film Bazaar in Goa says a lot. Seven years ago he was not attending an event like this, which now has people from Tribeca and Cannes. We are here paying attention to the enormous potential beyond the commercial arena. There is no country on earth like India where filmmaking is so vital and productive. The quality of film technicians is also unmatched. But I still think some filmmakers are paying too much attention to the domestic audience and that might be a controversial thing to say but I think there's a wider world out there. Look at Scandivania which has a small domestic market but they have filmmakers like Lars von Trier who are known globally. As an Indian filmmaker you have to be clear who is your audience. If it is the strong domestic market that is absolutely fine but if you have global aspirations then you will have to think differently.