The 16th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) was special in many respects. Apart from screening of a wide variety of films in competition sections, the festival also paid tribute to the departed legends of documentary and animation genres, with special screenings in the homage section and exhibitions.  Animation lovers savoured retrospective packages from three countries. European documentary culture was revealed through a specially curated package. The delegates of 16th MIFF experienced films drawn from a diverse canvas. All that was just the start what was offered at MIFF 2020.

During the week-long festival in Mumbai, which ran from 28th January to 3rd February, film-lovers got to watch the finest films in competition and other sections. They also interacted with eminent film personalities and cine enthusiasts, through master classes, workshops, interactive sessions, open forums and even lecture demonstrations on diverse aspects of cinema and filmmaking.

Supported by the Government of Maharashtra and organized by the Government of India’s Films Division (Ministry of Information & Broadcasting), the Mumbai International Film Festival is one of the South Asia’s oldest, largest and most sought after festivals for Documentary, Short Fiction & Animation films.

Inspiring Words at the opening ceremony

At the MIFF 2020 opening ceremony, the Guest of Honour and Maharashtra State Minister, Shri Amit Vilasrao Deshmukh said, “Films Division, which has been the defining force in the documentary film movement in India since 1948, has made possible the dream of documentary film making for many Indian youngsters. It had the vision of establishing MIFF as one of the most sought-after cultural events of the country. MIFF has steadily grown in stature over the years and is one of the best organized documentary film festivals in the world. The best minds in the documentary film movement will gather in Mumbai during the coming days. I congratulate Films Division and the Ministry of I&B for making MIFF a roaring success. Hope the 16th edition will not only be a new experience, but also inspire you to watch films which will be screened in future editions of MIFF”. Speaking on the changes in the industry, the Minister said the sector faces challenges and encouraged the audience to deal with the challenges and take the industry to greater heights.

The President of Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA), Ms. Usha Deshpande said, “IDPA has been a partner in MIFF right from the beginning. We organize workshops, panel discussions and master classes and also present an award for the best student film. This year, in collaboration with Films Division, we are helping organize special screenings on college campuses. We also try to explore problems and solutions faced by the documentary film industry. The documentary film industry fulfills a very important mission; we deserve wide support in taking forward this movement.”

Addressing and welcoming the gathering, the MIFF festival director and Director General of the Films Division, Ms. Smita Vats Sharma said “Documentary films hold a mirror to society and play a crucial role in documenting heritage, history and values of a nation and its people. With this mission in mind MIFF, was conceptualized as a platform to showcase the best in non-fiction filmmaking. MIFF has grown in stature from year to year. The 16th edition is here with more energy and passion.”

What made MIFF 2020 special?

Films from all over the world

The MIFF 2020 showcased a special package of films from European Union, an Animation package from Russia, Finland and Balkan; and Oscar nominated films such as Fauve, Detainment and Night at the Garden. Ireland showcased its best documentaries in the Country Focus section.

Similarly, curated films from North-East India, best of various International Film Festivals and eminent film maker Satyajit Ray’s films such as Sukumar Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, The inner Eye, and iconic film Pikoo was screened.  Student films from FTII, SRFTI, NID, FTIT, Srishti, Craft School and Whistlingwood were some of the other films eagerly awaited by delegates of MIFF.  This edition of the festival also saw a participation of intellectually challenged young adults with their short films, in special screenings.

Other highlights included Open Forum by IDPA, ‘Film Editing’ workshop by B. Lenin, ‘Drone Cinematography’ Workshop by Indian Institute of Drones, Master classes by acclaimed animator Michael Dudok De Wit (Poland), senior film academician Thomas Waugh (Canada) and many more.

Sculpture and Photo Exhibition

One of the more unique attractions in MIFF 2020 was the Sculpture and Photo Exhibition-cum-demonstration that commemorated the 150th Birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the celebration of Satyajit Ray’s Centenary.  MIFF also paid homage to Mrinal Sen, Ram Mohan, Bhimsain Khurana, VG Samant, Vijaya Mule, Manjira Datta and others.

India Tourism showcased Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat through Cultural Performance

A prime attraction at the opening ceremony was a cultural performance organized by India Tourism, Mumbai, showcasing the rich heritage and culture of India. Ms. Harshada Jambekar and her team enthralled the audience with rendition of traditional Maharashtrian folk dance – the very graceful & vibrant ‘lavani’. An eclectic dance performance “Nrutyarang” showcased the spirit and essence of ‘Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat’, through a confluence of different Indian classical dance styles; the performance was choreographed by Odissi exponent Smt. Shubhada Varadkar.

MIFF presented an array of Awards in Recognition of Cinematic Excellence

The Festival Director, Smita Vats Sharma informed that Mumbai International Film Festival is a platform not only for Indian film makers but also for filmmakers from across the world. “MIFF not only recognizes best talents in documentary, short fiction and animation films by bestowing Golden and  Silver Conches and trophies, but it also gives away handsome cash awards in different competition categories. The most prestigious award in the 16th MIFF, the Best Film of the Festival carries a cash prize of 10 Lakh rupees and Golden Conch while other awards carry cash awards varying from five to one lakh rupees along with Silver Conch, trophy and certificate. IDPA award carrying Rs.1 lakh and trophy for the Best student film and Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari Award for the Best Debut Director will also be presented on the closing day. Awards in various competition categories will also be presented on 3rd February at the closing ceremony”, she added.

It is a matter of pride for the festival that this edition of MIFF received a record number of 850+ entries from more than 25 countries, in the national and international competition categories. MIFF 2020 also facilitated conversations, Q&A sessions and B2B meets between filmmakers and OTT players, to help filmmakers better market their films and to contribute to better understanding of the expectations of OTT players as regards documentaries, short films and animation films which can be hosted on the platforms.

A special award for the best short film on ‘Water Conservation and Climate Change’ carrying One lakh cash and trophy has been instituted in the current edition of the festival.

MIFF reached out to youth through Screenings at College Campuses

As part of MIFF 2020, screenings of specially curated films were held at Kalina campus of University of Mumbai, Deviprasad Goenka Management College at Malad and Usha Pravin Gandhi College Campus at Vile Parle to encourage and engage students at large to get involved in documentary film making and aesthetics. Legendary animation films were screened at college campuses to attract younger audiences.


A mobile app for MIFF was launched, where festival delegates could access all information and updates on the festival. “MIFF 2020 is going mobile. All information on the festival can be accessed via the mobile app. The MIFF app will facilitate the delegates of MIFF to network and vote for films too”, stated Director General, Films Division, Ms. Smita Vats Sharma.

The week-long festival culminated on 3rd February, 2020. Since MIFF is a competitive film festival, an international jury comprising of film industry professionals presented awards in various categories. The Mumbai International Film Festival had two competition sections, International Competition and National Competition. The National Competition was established in 1998 due to a large number of submissions from Indian filmmakers.

The main award presented at MIFF is the Gold Conch. It is given to the best documentary film in International Competition. The Silver Conch awards are presented to the best short fiction film and the best animated film in International Competition, as well as to the best documentary film, the best documentary short film, the best animated film and the best short fiction film in National Competition. Besides, there are a number of special and technical awards.

Alongside competition screenings, the program of the festival includes non-competition sections (retrospectives, homages, special screenings), as well as industry events such as forums, workshops, seminars, panel discussions, an open forum, networking events, etc. Screenings and other events are open to the public, but prior registration is required.

MIFF aims to provide a platform for documentary and short filmmakers from around the world, giving them the opportunity to exchange ideas and explore collaboration possibilities. The festival screens films from different countries, but special emphasis is put on Indian films because one of MIFF’s main goals is to promote Indian cinema internationally. This edition of MIFF was a visual treat for the senses and left us wanting for me. All the hard work that goes into putting together a festival of this scale was clearly evident, the meticulous planning and scheduling of events was done in a commendable way. Many congratulations to the team MIFF, 2020 for pulling off such a gala event without any untoward incident. With how wonderful the 2020 festival was, there’s no doubt that the biannual film festival will return much bigger and even better in 2022.

Antara Sarkar

With a Post Graduate in Marketing Management, and 14 years of corporate experience in General Insurance domain, Antara is based out of Delhi and shuttles across India for her work commitments. In order to pursue her higher education, she left home at the tender age of 16 and has stayed in different cities of India, allowing her to meet people from different backgrounds. As a voracious reader, traveller, and orator, Antara has always found the art of writing extremely therapeutic as it helps her channel her inner energy about various social issues.

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