Forget glitzy red carpet premieres in Leicester Square or late night screenings at the Harrow Safari cinema. Nowadays the best place in London to catch new and exciting Indian films is at a festival.
Once the preserve of critics and middle class movie buffs, film festivals have had a consumer friendly makeover in recent times. More accessible and increasingly fashionable, they have become a means for well known and up and coming filmmakers to showcase their work to the general public as well as industry folk.
A few years ago you would have been hard pushed to find a UK film festival dedicated to Indian cinema. Now we lucky Londoners have three on our doorstep thanks to some enterprising individuals who want to promote the best of independent and commercial Indian cinema to Brits.
Having said salaam to the annual Tongues On Fire film festival in March 2010, followed by a namaste to the first ever London Indian Film Festival in July, this month the capital city gets ready to welcome the similarly named Indian Film Festival of London (IFFL).
Running at the historic Riverside Studios in Hammersmith from 25-29 August, the IFFL is billed as “the first major film festival to be held in London that is dedicated solely to promoting cinema from the Indian subcontinent.” While their rivals may care to dispute these claims, along with the popular cinema of Bollywood and regional India, the IFFL will try and distinguish itself from other festivals by introducing audiences to the lesser-known cinematic traditions of the region, showcasing an array of powerful productions from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
IFFL highlights include five UK premieres of acclaimed Indian films including Dunno Y..., the first major Indian film to depict a serious gay relationship, and an opening night gala screening of the rural satire Peepli Live. Written and directed by Anusha Rizvi and produced by Aamir Khan, the superstar lends his best wishes to the festival by offering his movie weeks earlier than its 24th September UK release date, as well as a short filmed message on the festival’s official website.
Conveniently held under the same roof, other events include art work of emerging Indian artists, a retrospective honouring the Indian filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra in aid of UNICEF, and an awards ceremony to honour the recipients of the jury awards for best documentary and feature film.
According to the festival commissioner, Kapil Komireddi, their principal objective is two fold. “We would like to expand the audience base of Indian cinema in the UK while simultaneously encouraging Indian producers to invest in British film.” The second of these goals undoubtedly aims to build and strengthen cultural and commercial bridges between the film industries of Britain and India. This will be done by encouraging the exchange of ideas and facilitating meetings between film professionals and potential investors.
To achieve this the IFFL has partnered with ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India), a powerful federation of some of India’s most successful private corporations entrusted by the government of India with the task of promoting the Indian film industry to the global market.
“Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks Studio is being sustained on Indian money,” adds Komireddi. “In no more than a decade, it is highly likely that major films made in the west will have substantial Indian involvement in them. Britain can benefit from this. And the IFFL will create a major platform to make this possible.”
One may be lonely, two’s company but is three a crowd when it comes to Indian film festivals in one city? For lovers of South Asian cinema like me, you can never get enough celluloid entertainment. Be it Bollywood, art house, regional or new wave independent cinema from the sub-continent, there’s nothing quite like watching films on the silver screen compared to DVDs or dodgy downloads. With so many good quality and ‘hatke’ Asian films missing out on UK cinema release, festivals like the IFFL are a way of accessing and enjoying little gems with blockbuster potential.
So long as there are film festivals dedicated to celebrating the diversity of Asian cinema, and they are on my home turf, I for one will be buying a ticket. As a certain Mr Shah Rukh Khan so aptly put it… picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!
The Indian Film Festival of London runs from 25- 29th August 2010.
Click on www.iffl.co.uk for more info.