South Asia at the BFI London Film Festival
4 – 15 October 2017


There’s a lot of talk this year about how the BFI London Film Festival has grown, evolved, and become a significant feature in the international film scene. Much of this has to do with Claire Stewart – the BFI’s head of exhibition who joined the institute six years ago – who’s worked hard to make the Festival feel more inclusive by introducing increasingly diverse programming and spreading out the festival venues (read an excellent piece on that here).

While this year’s programme is not fully representative of all of South Asia (Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all but absent), it’s still good to see a good number of South Asian films on offer – ten films from or relating to India, one from Pakistan, and one UK/India collaboration (Breathe – the opening film of the festival, no less), featuring a score by British-Indian composer extraordinaire Nitin Sawhney.

Some of our highlights (which may well be fast on their way to selling out) are here:

beyond the clouds poster

Beyond the Clouds

One of my favourite Iranian filmmakers Majid Majidi of the Children of Heaven, The Colour of Paradise, and The Song of Sparrows fame ventures into Mumbai to make his newest feature ‘Beyond the Clouds’. Starring Bollywood boy next door Shahid Kapoor’s younger brother Ishan Khattar in his debut film, the film is a coming of age story set in a Mumbai slum. The film navigates through Mumbai’s underbelly by focusing on the story of the boy and his attempts to free his sister from prison. Cinematography is by the seriously talented Anil Mehta (Veer-Zaara, Jab Tak Hai Jaan) and music by the ever brilliant A.R. Rahman.

When: Friday 13 October 2017, 20:40; and Saturday 14 October 2017, 11:30

Where: Embankment Garden Cinema

Tickets: BFI London Film Festival website 


Brawler (Mukkabaaz)

Ever since Raging Bull, I’ll watch anything set in a boxing ring – flinching notwithstanding. In Brawler acclaimed filmmaker Anurag Kashyup of Gangs of Wassaypur and Bombay Talkies fame takes a stab at a film about a boxer, played by Vineet Kumar Singh who’s acted in most of Kashyup’s previous films. The conflicted boxer is caught in a love triangle between Sunaina, the woman he wants to marry and the boxing career he longs to have – but both are held out of reach by the head of the boxing federation and Sunaina’s uncle.

When: Wednesday 11 October 2017, 20:30

Where: Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 7

Tickets: BFI London Film Festival website 



This was sold out weeks ago, but it’s in here so you can drop whatever you’re doing on the night, and stand in line praying for returns.

As India delists the Taj Mahal for being too Muslim (more about that here), there couldn’t be a more a pertinent time for a screening of this silent epic telling the story of one of the wonders of the world, a UNESCO heritage site, and India’s most visited attraction. A UK-India-Germany co-production, Shiraz is a grand telling of the story of the Taj Mahal. The silent film will be accompanied by a live score by the ever-brilliant sitar player Anoushka Shankar, with a full ensemble of Eastern and Western musicians commissioned by the BFI. They really, reaaalllyyyyy need to announce another date.

When: Saturday 14 October 2017, 20:00

Where: Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS

Tickets: BFI London Film Festival website 


The Hungry

The last few years have seen a wave Shakespeare-inspired film and theatre work coming out of South Asia. The British Council’s World Festival Shakespeare performances in 2013 featured theatre productions from Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Globe; Vishal Bhardwaj’s trilogy culminated with the 2013 Hamlet-based Haider; and London based filmmaker Ahmad Jamal’s 2017 film Rahm was based on Measure for Measure. And now, the Hungry. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, and based on one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works – ‘Titus Andronicus’ – this is arguably one of the bravest (and from the trailer – highly beautiful) interpretations. In writer/director Bornila Chatterjee’s evocative film, Shakespeare’s villain Temora is the heroine Tulsi (played by Tisca Chopra) who navigates two conflicting needs – to avenge one son’s death and to keep the other alive. All of this, of course, to the backdrop of a grand Indian wedding.

When: Saturday 07 October 2017, 18:15

Where: Picturehouse Central, Screen 1


When: Sunday 08 October 2017, 20:45

Where: Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1

Tickets: BFI London Film Festival 

Azmaish: a journey through the Subcontinent

Of all the independence related productions that have been on offer this year, this sounds like one of the most promising. A female focused documentary following director Sabiha Sumar, (known for first feature Silent Waters/Khamosh Pani) through Pakistan, and actor Kalki Koechlin (Zindagi na Milegi Dobara and Margarita with a Straw) through India. Their journeys feature relevant political and social issues plaguing both countries 70 years after independence. The conversations between them, some of the people they meet, and the perspectives they uncover on both sides of the border offer what promises to be an honest and poetic insight into contemporary and rapidly changing India and Pakistan.

When: Thursday 05 October 2017,, 18:20

Where: BFI Southbank, NFT2

When: Friday 06 October 2017, 13:00

Where: ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Tickets: BFI London Film Festival 



Posted on: 1 October 2017

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