My Story: The Making Of The ‘River to River Florence Indian Film Festival’ – Selvaggia Velo

Selvaggia Velo

Each of us has, at some point of time in our lives, received life advice from our personal life coaches – parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, kids, the vegetable vendor or the stranger sitting on the adjacent seat on the flight. Something that moved you, changed you or made a difference to your perspective forever. India Pages brings to you these slices of life, shared by people from all walks of life … Writers, Photographers, Artists, Television Producers, Hands-on mommies, Entrepreneurs, and Engineers …. Meet Selvaggia Velo

My very own Indian film festival took place…!

MyStory India Pages It all began in October 1998, with the organisation of an exhibition of the enormous Indian movie banners hand-painted by the Balkrishn Arts artists from Mumbai. This art show was held in a former church in Florence… an amazing space for such an exhibition. People flocked and enjoyed it.

The next year, in June 1999, the journey proceeded and went forward by inviting those three artists to Florence to hold a live show during a Summer event in the open air, on a stage under the stars. They painted four big movie banners in front of the curious Florence audience that had never seen such a thing. The films that were represented were Italian ones, so the people sitting there could relate to them. This was such a success that interviews on television channels came along with a few press reviews.

I did not have a clear idea of what all this was going to lead to, but after two years the first edition of my very own Indian film festival took place…!

The idea of putting together India and Cinema gave birth to the River to River Florence Indian Film Festival, under the Patronage of the Embassy of India. It had its 1st edition in October 2001 in Florence, as the first festival in the world (out of India) totally devoted to films from and about India.

The flowing of culture and of ideas through cinema, from one river (the Ganges) to the other (the Arno, our river in Florence), was – and of course still is – the heart of the festival.

After having organised the first edition, I met a person who introduced me to many people in the Industry and who still is a dear friend and an integral part of how all this took place: Uma da Cunha. After Uma, in these years I met many people who have given suggestions and helped out in their way, and I am extremely grateful to everyone for this.

I still remember the evening of the 1st edition, Thursday, October 4th, 2001: being amazed of people coming to see Indian films in Florence! Over the years we have nurtured an audience and opened a door to Indian cinema in Italy – a country were hardly any Indian film gets released in the theatres.

Year after year, also making mistakes and experimenting, the festival has now reached the 17th edition, that will take place from 7 to 12 December 2017. Our aim is to showcase Indian cinema at 360 degrees, in the presence of its directors, actors and producers.

In the years we have had plenty of guests, among them Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Irrfan Khan, Deepa Mehta, Aparna Sen, Ketan Mehta, Anurag Kashyap, Rahul Bose, Abhishek Kapoor, Nandana Sen, and many others.

It is not easy to keep the festival going and it is a challenge every time, but we like it and always look forward to brainstorming and putting new ideas and collaborations in it. The hardest part of it all is the budget, since it is a constant hassle looking for funds and sponsors, and this can sometimes drive us crazy, but in some way, we have managed up to now.

Since a few years, we also bring our “best of” in Milan, and in other cities where we are asked to. We believe in Indian cinema, and with my team of volunteers (whom I thank very much for being always there in a very special way) and professionals, we work on this festival all year long to make it as interesting and amazing as we can.

After so many years of India, its culture, its cinema and people, all this has become an important part of my soul. I travel to India once or twice a year to scout for new films and new collaborations for the festival, and I realise that I have been doing it for over fifteen years now.

This has impacted my life in many ways: how and what I eat, the way I mix the colours when I dress, the music I listen to and most important I have a few very good friends from India, with whom I feel totally at home. India is now part of my life, whatever will happen, and every time I go back to Italy I bring a part of it home with me.

Your film can travel to Florence too. I invite you all to submit your films within September 15th and #getrivered with us!!!

River To River Florence Indian Film Festival Invites Entries

About Selvaggia Velo

Born in 1972 in Florence, Italy, Selvaggia Velo has studied at the University of Bologna, and achieved her Master Degree in Humanities, Department of Art, Cinema, Music and Theatre. Since 1998 she works with Indian cinema and on other cultural events in the fields of cinema, contemporary arts and music. In 2001 she founded and became director of the first film festival in the world totally devoted to Indian cinema and films about India – River to River Florence Indian Film Festival (, that has had Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Irrfan Khan, Deepa Mehta and Kabir Bedi among its guests of honour. She is currently working on the 17th edition of the Festival that will take place from 7 to 12 December 2017.
Selvaggia has been a member of some International Juries: the 10th International Film Festival of Mumbai in Mumbai, India, in March 2008, for the Indian feature films; the 7th Bollywood and Beyond Film Festival in Stuttgard, Germany, in July 2008, for the Indian documentary films; the 9th Pune International Film Festival in Pune, India, in January 2011, for the worldwide films; and the short film competition Advantage India ones. She has also been on the board of the 1st Ladakh International Film Festival as Director of Cultural Exchange and has been invited to be a jury member of India Is… A visual journey short film competition organised by the Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India. She is also collaborating in curating a section of films and moderated panels for the Krishnakriti Festival of Art and Culture in Hyderabad, since 2016.

About the Author

Suhana Bhatia
Suhana Bhatia
Features Editor