The 7th London Indian Film Festival is underway! This year’s showcase features films that are diverse in theme, language and sensibility, and promises, as it always delivers, an unrivalled insight into the lives, loves and ideas of and from India, and even slightly beyond. The ever-popular conversations series is taking on legendary proportions this year – with Q&As with Sharmila Tagore, Kamal Hassan and director Shekhar Kapur. The full Festival Programme is well worth a look over, but here are some of our top picks.
There’s a strong, and totally welcome, feminist flavour to the Festival this year, which kicks off with ‘Parched’ – a film about four rural women as they begin to identify and question the various discriminations they are subject to, and the social and institutional rules and norms which normalise violence and inequality against them. It’s had great reviews from the New York Times, and Variety Magazine, both of which commented on the beautiful photography, and the film’s rhythmic, lilting pace. A must-see we think. We’re too late on this post to suggest the opening night premiere, but you can catch the film on two further dates.
16 July, Cineworld Wembley, 5.30pm, £13.60 (concessions available, as well as discounts if you have/ create a Cineworld account). Book here.
20 July, BFI Southbank, 8.40pm, £10.65 (concessions available). Book here.
Who doesn’t like a good old adaptation of Romeo and Juliet? We’re barely over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s sumptuous Ramleela, when along comes this Bengali musical adaptation to tie in with Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary celebrations. And it’s directed by Aparna Sen, one of Bengali cinema’s most celebrated female directors. Her version tackles the religious divide, as her title characters – Romo and Julie – are Muslim and Hindu. The film has divided movie-goers and critics alike, and the director herself has argued that it is ahead of its time. We’re intrigued to see for ourselves – not least in terms of what the female gaze might do with this most classical of love stories.
16 July, Crouch End Picturehouse, 8pm, £13 (concessions available). Book here.
17 July, BFI Southbank, 5.30pm, £11.75 (concessions available). Book here.
A film that’s already won several awards – including India’s National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Konkani – Enemy? explores the use and impact of the 1968 Enemy Property Act, which was enacted after the 1965 India-Pakistan War, and has allowed the government to usurp property – often prime land – from citizens. The film is based on detailed research conducted by director/ scriptwriter Dinesh P Bhonsle about the ways on which the Act has affected ordinary people’s lives. It’s set in Goa at Christmas time, and boasts a cast of almost all-Goans – many of them new actors. Bhonsle has gone to painstaking lengths to ensure that the film – in terms of actors, locations and costumes – represents ‘true’ Goa, and so it’s likely to be a feast for the eyes too.
18 July, Cineworld Wandsworth, 8pm, £12.20 (concessions available, as well as discounts if you have/ create a Cineworld account). Book here.
20 July, BFI Southbank, 7.30pm, £15.30 (concessions available). Book here.
Double Bill: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness/ Song of Lahore
This double bill features two films by Oscar winning Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, followed by a Q&A. The first film – A Girl in the River – won Sharmeen her second Oscar this year (she won her first for her documentary feature about acid violence Saving Face in 2012). It’s a short documentary about Saba, an 18 year old woman in rural Punjab who suffers a so-called ‘honour-based’ attack by her father and uncle after marrying a man of her choice. The film follows her struggle through Pakistan’s judicial system in search of justice, through to its heart-breaking culmination as under pressure from the community, she is forced to ‘forgive’ her attackers – thus saving them from prosecution. The film led to vocal commitments from Pakistan’s prime minister for legislative action to curb impunity for honour-based violence – however this has yet to materialise.
The second film – Song of Lahore – has us massively excited. It’s about the Lahore-based Sachal Orchestra – a group of mostly self-taught musicians, some of whom were left destitute by the decline of Pakistan’s film industry and who were brought together by philanthropist Izzat Majeed as an ensemble which has taken the world by storm with their fusion renditions of Western jazz tunes. We’ve seen them live in London twice, written about them here, and would frankly follow them just about anywhere. The film charts the rich musical heritage of Lahore and how this was affected by military dictator Zia Ul Haq Islamization campaign of the late 70s and 80s. CANNOT wait for this.
When: Thursday 18 July 2016, 6.30pm
Where: Picturehouse Central, corner of Great Windmill Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7DH
Tickets: £11.75 (concessions available)
Website: Picturehouse Central
Toba Tek Singh
The Festival closes with a film adaptation of Saadat Hasan Manto’s seminal story about the partition of India – Toba Tek Singh. Centred around the lives of the inmates of a mental asylum, the story is a heart-breaking comment about the madness of partition and the confusion, displacement and violence that unfolded in its aftermath, and the trauma of losing one’s home. Featuring the acting super-talents of Pankaj Kapur and Vinay Pathak, and directed by Ketan Mehta, Toba Tek Singh will likely be a powerhouse ending to the Festival. And a fitting reminder to a world currently which also seems to have gone mad.
The film has been supported by Zeal for Unity, an initiative which aims to provide a common platform for the work of 12 filmmakers from India and Pakistan.
When: Thursday 21 July 2016, 6pm
Where: BFI Southbank, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XT
Tickets: £11.75 (concessions available)
Website: BFI Southbank
Posted on 15 July 2016
Photos from London Indian Film Festival/ Song of Lahore, BFI Southbank