Mumbai Film Festival: Costa Gavras Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Mumbai Film Festival
Costa Gavras presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by Mumbai Academy of Moving Images chairman Shyam Benegal

The 15th edition opened with a screening of "The Butler" and Indian film icon Kamal Haasan being honored.

MUMBAI -- The 15th Mumbai Film Festival opened Thursday evening with an opening ceremony that saw lifetime achievement awards being presented to Costa Gavras and Indian film icon Kamal Haasan. The ceremony also included the traditional lighting of a lamp, which was done by top Bollywood actress Sonakshi Sinha. She was accompanied by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images chairman and veteran director Shyam Benegal and MAMI trustee Amit Khanna, among other dignitaries.

“I’m happy to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mumbai Film Festival,” said Gavras who was presented the award by Benegal. “It is wonderful to see Indian cinema has a large local audience watching their films. I wish the festival best of luck.” The festival's program includes a retrospective of Gavras' works including his acclaimed political thriller Z.

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Leading actor-director-producer Kamal Haasan was bestowed with the Indian Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by the chief minister of Maharashtra state (of which Mumbai is the capital), Prithviraj Chavan.

“There never was a method to my acting. I simply had great teachers, some of whom are present here tonight -- I respect them a lot,” said Haasan in his acceptance speech. “Festivals have also taught me a lot and I am humbled to have received this honor.”

“The state of Maharashtra supports and will continue to support this festival. I have been a huge fan of Mr. Gavras and Kamal Haasan,” Chavan remarked, adding that he saw Z "when I was in college and it had an impact on me." While referring to himself as "the odd man out in this gathering of great film-makers and artists," Chavan said that among other pressing issues faced by the film industry, the government would be considering the long-discussed proposal of establishing a Bollywood museum in Mumbai's Film City studio complex.

The opening ceremony was held at the festival's main venue, Liberty Theatre in south Mumbai, an art deco cinema with old world charm. The cinema was built in 1947, the year of India's independence from British rule. MFF has been moving from one venue to another in the absence of a permanent site, something that Benegal asked government for in his opening address.

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MFF is presented by Reliance Entertainment with MAMI, an industry body featuring leading Indian film figures, founded in 1997 by the late filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

This year's festival competition jury is presided over by Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford, with fellow members including French actress Nathalie Baye, Japanese film-maker Masato Harada, Indian actress Konkona Sen Sharma and Canada-based Indian director Deepa Mehta.

The India Gold competition jury is headed by Oscar winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) while fellow jurists include Australian film editor Jill Bilcock (Moulin Rouge), British actor-director Waris Hussein (Passage to India), Afghan director Siddiq Barmak (Osama) and Hong Kong International Film Festival director and film critic, Roger Garcia.

The festival opened with a screening of Lee Daniels' The Butler starring Forest Whitaker. The festival's closing film is The Fifth Estate, which will screen after the awards ceremony on Oct. 24.

MFF will feature more than 200 films from 65 countries, including spotlights on Spanish, French and Cambodian cinema. The festival will also pay tribute to the late Bollywood icon Yash Chopra (who passed away last October), the late Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh and the late Bollywood actor Pran.

Running alongside the festival will be the three-day Mumbai Film Mart which opens Friday.