In 2010, the 41st edition of IFFI was organized in Goa. Earlier, before the festival was permanently taken to Goa in 2004, the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was bi-annually organized in Delhi. This was done to disseminate film culture and the cinematic idiom within the different film producing regions of the country.
The first IFFI was organized in Mumbai (New Empire Cinema) from 24th January to 1st February, 1952. The entire festival was organized by Films Division with the patronage of the first Prime Minister of India. The festival was subsequently taken to Chennai, Delhi & Kolkata. In all, it had about 40 feature and 100 short films. The festival was non-competitive in nature. It had twenty three countries and the United States participating with 40 feature films and about a hundred short films. The Indian entries for the festival were Awara (Hindi), Patala Bhairavi (Telegu), Amar Bhoopali (Marathi) and Babla (Bengali). This was the first International Film Festival held anywhere in Asia. The notable films shown during the festival were Bicycle Heives, Miracle of Milan & Open City from Italy. Yukiwarisoo (Japan), Dancing Fleese (UK), The River (USA) and Fall of Berlin (USSR). It was for the first time that the Indian Film Industry was exposed to a vast range of outstanding post –war era films.
The main festival opened in Mumbai, and was inaugurated by Shri K.K Diwaker, Minister of States for I & B. In Chennai, it was inaugurated by Chief Justice P.V. Rajamannar, on February 8, 1952. A highlight of the Chennai session was a parade of film celebrities in decorated lorries.
The Delhi session was inaugurated by Prime Minster Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on February 21, 1952 and in Kolkata, and the opening ceremony was done by Dr. H.C. Mookerjee, Governor of West Bengal.
A special feature of this IFFI was the screening of films at the open air theatres, specially erected in all the three cities. In Mumbai, three open air theatres, with a seating capacity of 1500 per theatre, were operated at Azad Maidan. In Chennai the open theatre at Teynampet was used. In Kolkata, an open air theatre at Eden Gardens screened festival documentaries at free of charge Film Market.
The second IFFI was held in New Delhi from October 27 to 2nd November, 1961. This festival was also non-competitive.
The third IFFI was held in Delhi from January 3-21, 1965. Competition was introduced for the first time in this IFFI and continued for the next seven editions, all held in New Delhi.
The Government of India set up the Directorate of Film Festivals in 1973 with a view to organizing the International Film Festivals of India, the Filmotsavs, National Film awards, and promotion of Indian films abroad. The organizing of the 5th edition of IFFI was entrusted to the Directorate of Film Festival. IFFI became a member of FIAPF in the 5th edition and was classified as an “A” grade festival. The festival was inaugurated on 30th December 1974. For the first time a specially designed symbol, a stylized peacock and a logo were adopted at the festival. The expenditure for the festival revenue exceeded 13.5 Lakhs. Tickets were sold to the public and the festival revenue exceeded Rs.32 Lakhs. The late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi had taken a keen interest in meeting all the delegates at a tea party hosted by her.
With the introduction of Filmotsavs in 1975, held every alternative year, IFFI became bi-annual, competitive Festival and held in Delhi. The competitive festival was a bi-annual feature, held always in Delhi, while the FILMOTSAV was held in different film producing centers in India every alternative year. This was done to promote film culture within the different film producing regions of India. This continued till the 12th IFFI (1989) held in January in Sirifort Complex.
In 1989 DFF got formally de-linked from NFDC and became an attached office of the I & B Ministry. Filmotsavs and IFFI got merged. Since then IFFI was organized annually in January. It continued as non-competitive until 1995.
In 1996 specialized competition section was introduced for ‘Asian Women Directors’. In 1997 there was no competition section as this section was seen as a bi annual event to be organized in alternative years.
In 1998 the competition section was re-designed to include ‘Asian Competition Section’. This was done to ensure that greater entries of films were received from Asia.
In 1999, it was again non-competitive and held in Hyderabad maintaining the trend of having the competition section organized every alternative year.
In 2000 IFFI was held in Delhi and with a section on- ‘Asian Competition’.
In 2001 IFFI was proposed to be held in Bangalore but was later cancelled owing to the severe drought condition prevalent in the state. Organizing a gala festival was perceived as most inappropriate at that time.
In 2002 IFFI was held in Delhi with an ‘Asian Competition’ section. This feature continued in IFFI 2003.
The venue of the IFFI was also shifted from Delhi to Goa from 2004 but with an Asian Competition section.
In 2005 the competition section was enhanced to include Australia, Africa and Latin America, besides Asia. This was done to enhance the growing influence of IFFI and ensure greater film participation.