Report on Shemaroo

Now Showing: Himalayan woman power documentary at IFFLA’s 19th edition

Special Indian pass for virtual film fest, 16 woman directors and 40 features, shorts

Los Angeles : The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) returns on 20-27 May with a line-up of narrative and documentary features and shorts for the festival’s 19th edition where 40 documentaries, including shorts, will be virtually released. While the festival is geo-focused to California, special India passes will be available to enjoy the film festival by remote.

“This is a very special year for IFFLA. Taking the festival online has given us the freedom to curate programs we would not have been able to otherwise present in a physical setting. We have (effectively) expanded our reach,” according to Christina Marouda, executive director, who added, “Once you accept the fact of going virtual you start to realize all the new things that you can do, which is very exciting.”

The IFFLA devotes itself to a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture by showcasing films, supporting emerging filmmakers and promoting diverse perspectives of the Indian diasporas. The 19th edition of the festival boasts an impressive total of 40 films, including three World, eight North American, five U.S. and 17 Los Angeles premieres, spanning 17 languages and includes the works of 16 women directors.

IFFLA will open with the Los Angeles premiere of the powerful female-centric film, Fire in the Mountains, the 2021 Sundance-selected debut feature by Ajitpal Singh that immerses the audience into a village amidst the backdrop of the breath-taking beauty of the Himalayan mountains. Marouda said, “It’s a region that you normally don’t get to see in terms of the life and struggles (in the backdrop of its) culture.”

In addition, Marouda explained, “This film is a great example of what IFFLA is all about. And that is about supporting those new emerging voices that really have something to say with their first feature and we want to support the filmmaker in this journey that is starting for them right now.”

IFFLA’s closing will similarly showcase, Sthalpuran, (Chronicle of Space) by Akshay Indikar, the Marathi film that has won the hearts of audiences at festivals around the world for its breath-taking, poetic exploration of the inner life of its protagonist, a young boy named Dighu, after being featured at the ‘Berlinale 2020’. “It’s very profound and beautifully shot”, Marouda said of the film. 

Long-time IFFLA alumni Anurag Kashyap (of Sacred Games and Gangs of Wasseypur fame) will join Indikar in an interactive session that sets up an emergent upcoming independent filmmaker with one of the most celebrated independent filmmakers of our generation.

In another tweak, aimed at lifting the spirits of the Indian population in these exceptionally dark times, IFFLA will make a section of its line up in the 2021 edition available to audiences in India, with the India Pass that is a novel feature of the festival this year. 

The India Pass will offer access to 24 films from this year’s line up at the price of Rs. 150 (US $2.00), including six features and 18 shorts. IFFLA has coordinated with an anonymous donor who has underwritten most expenses associated with the pass.

Selected documentaries for the viewing of India Pass holders will include the Malayalam feature ‘Biriyaani’, along with a powerhouse performance by Kani Kusruti; the poignant Rotterdam selected documentary ‘A Rifle and a Bag’; and the impressive debut feature ‘Aise Hee’ (Just Like That).

A program curated by the legendary Uma da Cunha and themed, “Childhood on Edge”, which encompasses characters on the cusp of the momentous transformation from childhood to adulthood will be a special attraction at the IFFLA this year. This program includes three diverse features, Bridge, The Tenant, and Vanaja besides one short film, Kanya.

Among the shorts in the India Pass, highlights include the riveting National Award winning ‘Custody’; a Nagaland-set period drama ‘Angh’, which won a prize at Clermont-Ferrand 2021; the bold and mysterious ‘Catdog’, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes’ la Cinefondation segment; the Gujarati film ‘Anita’, featuring a memorable performance by Aditi Vasudev; the dystopian animated masterwork ‘Wade’, winner at the Annecy Film Festival; the Rotterdam selected ‘Letter From Your Far-Off Country’, whose potent exploration of history, memory and oppression is more relevant than ever; ‘Annual Day’, a striking student debut from the Satyajit Ray Film Institute; the enchanting ‘The Song We Sang’, a riveting story about two young women in the streets of Ahmedabad during the Navratri festival; and ‘For Each Other’, the latest film by Rima Das.

In addition to the films and their corresponding Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, the India Pass will also give audiences in India access to special panel discussions which include engaging conversations with successful industry executives who navigate the world of film and television development, both in the US and in India.

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