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Nothing Official About This Festival
Rakesh Mohapatra | 26 Feb 2008

In 2004 a bunch of film makers decided to come up with a platform for the young and independent filmmakers to exhibit their talent. The festival that started locally in a rather informal way has become an international affair, though it is barely five yea

No jury, no selection, no competition and no awards. No bureaucracy, no hierarchy and no tiresome speeches, it’s a film festival with a difference in a fenced off private stretch of sandy beach in Puri. As the name tells it all ‘Bring Your Own Film Festival’ (BYOFF), is an annual event held here during February every year since 2004 which invites filmmakers from across the country and abroad to showcase their talent in an intimate or rather informal atmosphere with an aim to encourage young and independent filmmakers who find it difficult to come across platforms for themselves.
 
Anybody who has made a film irrespective of type, format, duration and language can participate in this no holds barred event to get their work screened uncensored before a passionate crowd of film buffs. Organised in collaboration with Bhubaneswar based film society INSCREEN, this is a unique festival has become a launching pad for everyone who makes short films, documentaries and a platform to share their experience, vision, ideas and thought on various topics.
And with no dealing with red-tapism of selection juries, hostile censors, and the Censor Board having no role in the choice of movies, the carnival is a filmmaker’s delight since it commencement. The festival concluded on Feb 25 is just five years old but has carved out a niche for itself. Films are shown in makeshift tents in the day time and in the open air after the sun set with screenings go on till the mid night. Not only the film makers but artists from other fields like music, theatre, painting, sculpture, dance, literature and photography are encouraged to participate and exhibit their work. Filmmakers from over 20 exhibited their talent with the screening of nearly 140 films of different genre
 
It all started as an idea over a cocktail dinner in 2004 when a bunch of filmmakers thought it would be great to conduct a film festival away from the city atmosphere and far from the pomp and ceremony of a festival. The idea was to have a festival away from the oppressive atmosphere of bureaucratic control of big cities and where just about anybody - with or without films - could participate. Thus, Puri was decided to be the venue.
 
“For a while some of us, a motley bunch of filmmakers and film enthusiasts have been feeling the need for some free space where independent filmmakers could gather and show their work, exchange thoughts, ideas, information and experiences. The current scenario of independent film making in India (particularly for documentaries and short films) is in a state of flux. While the development of digital technology has made film making accessible, there are not enough platform where such films could be shown” say the organizers.
 
A slogan for the festival was picked up from the Puri local slang – Bhadas Dho! It was basically a way of expression in Puri for all kinds of mood flings like happiness, anger, contempt and even resignation. As in the local context, Bhadaas stands for the sound of collision and Dho for explosion. The significance of the expression was intended at a collision of artists, filmmakers, writers and singers expected to explode during the festival. The two huge makeshift tents that were built up for the screenings were also named as Bhadas and Dho. At the beginning films made in any format (35 mm, 16 mm, mini DV, DVD, CD, VHS, Beta.) were screened.
 
The festival went on to showcase 100 films with 220 delegates participating in its first edition. The next festival saw the screening of as many as 136 films of different duration and types.
 
All are not the filmmakers. There are several artists and students too from various institutions ranging from Biju Pattnaik Film and Television Institute of Orissa (BPFTIO), Cuttack, Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute of India (SRFTI), and Jadhavpur University, Calcutta, MCRC, Jamia Milia, New Delhi, FTII, Pune, who have played a vital role in the success of the festival.
  
Plans for BYOFF at the initial stage coincided with the controversy erupted over selection procedures at the Government-organised MIFF 2004 (Mumbai International Film Festival of Documentaries, Shorts, Animation) marked by the attempts to censor films critical of government policy. The first edition of BYOFF in 2004 screened a collection of films rejected by that year's Mumbai International Film Festival 2004. The festival also hopes to fill a need to have a platform for creative interactions among makers of documentaries and shorts — genres for which India has few channels of distribution and exhibition. A Delhi based distribution firm of independent films, had also opened a counter at the festival to acquire distribution rights of films screened there.
 
From 2006 the organizers decided to maintain fixed dates -from February 21 to 25 – for the festival to make it convenient for filmmakers to maintain a schedule.