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Avijit Dutt, other dignitaries inaugurate 6th Woodpecker International Film Festival in New Delhi

Building on its social-issue driven film programming, the Woodpecker International Film Festival (WIFF) returned to Delhi for its sixth edition. The inauguration ceremony of the festival was held at the Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi on Friday, 23 November 2018.

The inaugurating panel included eminent personalities and life-long social activists: Dr Ashish Chopra, culinary historian and principal advisor to WIFF; Razia Ismail, child rights advocate and reporter; ambassador Manpreet Vohra, additional secretary, ministry of external affairs; and Avijit Dutt, veteran actor and chairman, WIFF.

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Rao Narender Yadav, festival director, WIFF, commenced the inaugural ceremony by welcoming the audience to the festival and introducing the panel of dignitaries. The festival has had five past editions and about a dozen travelling editions as well. The ceremonial lighting of the lamp by the inaugural panel declared the festival open.

Addressing the audience, Dr Chopra said, "I can proudly say that since the humble inception of the festival, we have been galloping from milestone to milestone."

Veteran theatre and film actor-director, Avijit Dutt, who will also take a masterclass on storytelling at the festival, commented on documentary cinema as the focus of the festival, "Documentaries complete the human expression. Over the years, the Woodpecker International Film Festival has given a much-needed platform to that expression."

In a reflective and exhortative address, Razia Ismail took up the issue of children's rights and the need to focus on the setting of children's lives, highlighting that all issues affect children, not simply those classified as children's issues in governmental policies and action plans. She also emphasized on the need and nature of communication between individuals and communities.

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"The common thread among us all is that we strive to communicate what we feel is important to know. We must tell our stories in such a way that we do not allow them to be forgotten. Woodpecker is such an attempt to tell these stories, and I would like to be a part of this journey in whatever way I am qualified to be," she said.

Ambassador Vohra spoke of India's steadily enhancing soft power owing to its global influence in many facets of culture. "Brand building is very important for consolidating the soft power of India. Woodpecker is one such brand that has gone global through its efforts, which in turn helps the efforts of our governmental institutions in enhancing the nation's soft power," he observed.

Addressing the financial crunch that WIFF has faced throughout its journey due to its exclusive focus on social issues, Narender Yadav cast an optimistic light on the future of the festival and the diversity of stories it intends to showcase as more resources become available to the slowly but steadily growing film festival.

The inaugural film of the festival was the short film Roof Knocking by director Sina Salimi from Mexico. The film is a brooding expressionist, nightmarish and tonally surreal take on the Gaza aerial bombings, and the havoc they wreck on the lives of innocent civilians.

The Woodpecker International Film Festival is being held from 23 to 25 November 2018 at Siri Fort in Delhi. The programme includes an eclectic collection of Indian and international short films, feature films, documentaries and masterclasses centered around the issues of gender, sexuality, environment, wildlife, immigration and other contemporary concerns plaguing the social order today.

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