'Miss Lovely' bags the top prize at 11th IFFLA Fest in LA

NEW DELHI: Ashim Ahluwalia‘s feature Miss Lovely bagged the Grand Jury Prize while Nitin Kakkar‘s Filmistaan received the top Audience Award at the 11th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA).

Ship of Theseus by Anand Gandhi received Honourable Mention from the Grand Jury for features in the concluding ceremony, which ended with the screening of the Los Angeles premiere of Deepa Mehta‘s Midnight‘s Children based on Salman Rushdie‘s novel.

The short film Tatpaschat by Vasudev Keluskar also won an Honourable Mention from the Grand Jury.

The documentary Beyond All Boundaries by Sushrat Jain and the short film Unravel by Meghna Gupta not only won the best Grand Jury awards in their categories, but also the Audience prizes.

This year, the festival showcased more than 35 film features, documentaries, and short films at ArcLight Hollywood, home of IFFLA since its inception. "The awards are always bittersweet for all of us in the programming team as we truly believe in the exceptional talent and relevance of each film which has been so carefully chosen," said lead programmer Terrie Samundra. "That being said, we wholeheartedly share the enthusiasm of the audience and our prestigious jury. A huge congratulations to the winners!"

The 2013 feature film jurors were International Director of the Feature Film Programme at the Sundance Institute Paul Federbush, director/editor/writer Kanika Myer (Halo, Heart of India), and assistant curator of Film Programmes at Los Angeles County Museum of Art Bernardo Rondeau.

The Best Documentary Award was decided by The Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times film critic Sheri Linden, Senior Programmer at Film Independent Maggie Mackay, and Producer Nadine Mundo (Chelsea Settles).

Judging the short films were filmmaker and IFFLA alumni Prashant Bhargava (Patang), film curator and director of Industry Programming at Palm Springs ShortFest Kathleen McInnis, and actress Sheetal Sheth (ABCD, Looking for comedy in the Muslim World).

Miss Lovely, described as the "most hard-hitting film in the festival" by feature jury spokesperson Rondeau, is the story of two brothers caught in the grimy world of sub-Bollywood soft porn in the 1980s.

Beyond All Boundaries follows three cricket players from poor backgrounds whose love of the game becomes a microcosm of India‘s national obsession with the British import.

Filmistan is the story of a Hindu man, accidentally taken prisoner in Pakistan, who forms a bond with his captors based on a shared love for Bollywood music dramas.

Christina Marouda, who founded this festival eleven years earlier and is now working as director of development at New York‘s Museum of the Moving Image, also credited the mentorship of older independent stalwarts such as director Anurag Kashyap, whose gangster drama Gangs of Wasseypur opened the festival last week, and supportive producer Guneet Monga, honoured this year along with cable television executive Bela Balaria at the Festival‘s Sixth Annual Industry Leadership Awards.

In addition to the many independent films on view, the festival this year also screened the blockbuster Tamil-language fantasy film Eega and the animated adventure Arjun the Great, a co-production between India‘s UTV and The Walt Disney Co.

Although the festival has become an essential stop for producers and directors of challenging personal films, one of its most popular features always has been the "Bollywood by Night" sidebar, an ongoing tribute to mainstream Hindi music dramas. This year, "Bollywood by Night" was a five-film tribute to the late producer director Yash Chopra, who died in 2012.

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