Reflecting various hard-hitting and blunt subjects from across the world, a holistic mix of Indian and international features and documentaries — not necessarily representing Bollywood’s glitz and glamour — from India and countries like the US, Britain, Switzerland and Iran, regaled movie aficionados at the fifth edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF 2016) here.

Showcasing a mixture of various cultures and traditions, DIFF 2016, apart from being a four-day independent film festival, also gave those attending a taste of a variety of Indian dishes.

Held at the scenic locales of McLeod Ganj, DIFF 2016 started with filmmaker Raam Reddy’s Kannada drama film “Thithi” on November 3 and went on to feature a bouquet of independent films, documentaries and shorts. These facilitated exchange of thoughts on social and cultural issues between independent filmmakers, aspiring filmmakers, foreign attendees and film enthusiasts.

Be it internationally acclaimed Indian films and documentaries like “Highway”, “The Violin Player”, “Kammatipaadam”, or “That Day After Every Day” or gripping movies of foreign filmmakers like Singapore-based director Boo Junfeng’s “Apprentice” and Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s “Sonita” — the festival gave a clear view of the universal approach that these filmmakers take to make their films appeal globally.

The fest was pioneered by filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam to provide a platform for people to come forward and watch independent films.

“We started with the idea of bringing quality cinema to the mountains. The response that we received this year was fantastic and even better from the previous editions. Apart from the local audience, the tourists also had a great time. Most of the films witnessed packed screenings,” Sarin told IANS.

Some other movies which struck the right chords with the audience included “A Korean in Paris” (South Korea), “Didi Contractor: Marrying the Earth to the Building” (Switzerland), “Brothers” (Poland), “Victoria” (Germany), “The Last Dalai Lama'” (US) and “What’s in the Darkness” (China).

Besides movies, DIFF 2016 also came out as a cultural gathering where audiences from different parts of India and various countries were seen sharing their views. Another interesting aspect was foreign tourists flaunting Indian ethnic attires like sari and salwar suit at the movie gala.

During an interview with IANS, British documentary director Sean McAllister and US-based director Mickey Lemle even expressed their desire to make films on various Indian cuisines.

“I first came to India in 1969. This is my 24th visit to India. It would be great to make film on Indian food. It’s my favourite cuisine. When I go out to eat in New York, I have a favourite Indian restaurant there,” Lemle said.

DIFF 2016 also included a special children’s section where few short and full length films like “At Eye Level” (Germany), “Hum Chitra Banatey Hain” (India), “Amdavad Ma Famous” (India), “Mindenki” (Hungary) were screened.

There were also panel discussions — ‘Cinema India: Voices from the Non-Hindi Mainstream’ and ‘Invisible People: Questions of Identity and Belonging’ — which were attended by independent Indian filmmakers Umesh Kulkarni, Sanjeev Kumar, Bauddhayan Mukherji, and actors Girish Kulkarni and Chittaranjan Giri.

It also featured foreign filmmakers like Pimpaka Towira, Chow Kwun-Wai, Boo Junfeng, Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami and Tenzin Dasel.

They spoke of how independent cinema is proving its mettle across the globe. Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah and veteran screenwriter and filmmaker Saeed Mirza were also present at the event.

After an electrifying start, the festival chose to give the movie gala a perfect end by screening National Award-winning filmmaker Vetrimaaran’s Tamil drama “Visaranai”, which is India’s official entry for Oscars 2017 in the Foreign Language Film category.

(The writer’s trip to Dharamsala was at the invitation of the Dharamshala International Film Festival organisers. Sandeep Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

By Sandeep Sharma

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