Iran director missing as Mumbai opens

Festival honors Chopra, Kapoor

MUMBAI -- The 11th Mumbai Film Festival, organized by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image unfurled Thursday night, but missing Iranian director and jury member Jafar Panahi.

In his opening speech, MAMI chairman and veteran Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal said,“We urge the Iranian authorities to allow Mr. Panahi to travel to India. He is welcome anytime to participate in the festival." Panahi's passport was being held by Iranian authorities.

The MFF jury is headed by Hollywood writer and director Paul Schrader.

Veteran producer/director Yash Chopra was honored by the Federation Internationale des Associatons de producteurs de Films (FIAPF) for outstanding achievement in film. This award was conferred upon Chopra by FIAPF at the 2008 Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Sydney but he wasn’t able to attend.

Receiving the award from FIAPF director general Benoit Ginisty, Chopra said, “Such appreciation for one's work is always a very humbling experience. I am happy that God has given me the strength and the ability to make films for so many years and I will continue to do so till my last breath.”

MFF also honored veteran actor/film-maker Shashi Kapoor with the Lifetime Achievement Award, celebrating his six-decade career.

MFF's primary sponsor is Reliance Big Entertainment and is organized by MAMI, making it the only international film festival in India to be organized by an independent body of practicing film professionals.

Interspersed with classical Indian dance performances, the evening's show was hosted by filmmakers Karan Johar and Farhan Akhtar. MFF was officially inaugurated by Information and Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni who said, “Indian cinema has made significant contribution to India's growth rate. The film industry’s concerns are the concerns of my ministry.”

The festival opened with Steven Soderbergh's “The Informant!” starring Matt Damon in the real-life story of a corporate whistle-blower. MFF will feature 200 films from 56 countries and will conclude on November 6 with an awards ceremony.