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The London Indian Film Festival 2018 promises a diverse and boundary-breaking line-up


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The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival is a cinematic treasure trove of carefully curated premieres of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi independent films, offering rare glimpses into some of the billion plus lives in the sub-continent. The theme of this ninth edition of the festival is "The Female Eye & Extraordinary Lives".

The programme of dramas, documentaries and shorts explores a compelling slate of controversial, entertaining and thought provoking themes with global resonances. The festival is title sponsored by the Bagri Foundation, which is dedicated to the promotion of Asian arts and culture.

Take a look at some highlights from the programme below:

Opening Night Gala:

The festival helmer, with an all star Hollywood and Bollywood cast including Demi Moore, Freida Pinto, Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar RaoRicha ChaddaAnupam Kher, Adil Hussain, Sunny Pawar and Mrunal Thakur, is the World Premiere of Love Sonia, from the Academy nominated producer of Life Of Pi, David Womark. A compelling story of two loving sisters who are forced into the sex industry in Mumbai. The main protagonist Sonia (Freida Pinto), is sustained by a fragile dream that is worth surviving for, and her searing journey spans three continents and a lifetime of experiences that no young girl should have. Sonia is determined not to become one of the 800,000 women and children who are victims of the international sex trade industry every year. The director Tabrez Noorani, who was previously line producer on the multi- Academy, BAFTA, and Golden Globe winner Slumdog Millionaire, and films like Zero Dark Thirty, alongside talent from the film and beyonf, are expected at Cineworld Empire Leicester Square on Thursday 21st June.

Closing Night Gala:

The Festival finale red carpet Gala is at BFI Southbank with the UK Premiere of Venus - a feel-good comedy about a Canadian Punjabi transgender person who is about to embark on surgery but suddenly discovers they are the biological father of a teenage boy who thinks they are the coolest dad on the planet. The director Eisha Marjara and talent are expected, on Friday 29 June.

Central Gala

The Central Gala film is T For Taj, an inspiring tale about a roadside eatery owner who lives aside the main road to the Taj Mahal. He embarks on an innovative and risky plan to educate the local illiterate children by offering free food in exchange for tourists teaching the kids. Starring Aki Falkner (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pitobash (Million Dollar Arm)). The director Kireet Khuranna and guests, are expected.

Festival Strands:

‘The Female Eye’ showcases the work of six, exciting female filmmakers who offer very fresh stories and alternative cinematic styles in South Asian cinema.

  • The English Premiere of multi-award-winning Village Rockstars is a joyous mother-daughter story about a freethinking village girl who dreams of being a rock guitarist, with Q&A by director Rima Sen.
  • Teen Aur Aadha (Three and a Half) is an envelope-pushing compilation of three dramatic tales of modern Mumbai shot in three and a half takes.
  • British Bengali director Sangeeta Datta’s mesmerisingly beautiful Bird of Dusk examines the inner life of the late, great Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh.

These and two other women filmmakers highlight some of India’s most original, cutting edge film talents. Alongside, this LIFF will also screen a cinematic tribute to the legendary Bollywood star Sridevi, who died in February, with a special treat for all her fans - a rare, silverscreen showing of Shekhur Kapur’s iconic 1987 blockbuster, Mr India, co-starring Slumdog Millionaire star Anil Kapoor.

‘Fathers & Sons’ is also a powerful theme running through this year’s festival, with films that explore Indian father and son relationships, from which boys learn their first lessons about masculinity. This role model has good sides and bad including toxic masculinity, which leads to violence against women.

  • In The Shadows is a dark, agoraphobic debut by Dipesh Jain that depicts a ten-year-old’s story of struggling with a wife-beating father in an old Delhi chawl, starring the versatile Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee (Aligarh), who is expected at the festival.
  • By contrast, the raucous, British comedy Eaten By Lions has Bradford teenager Omar and his half brother searching for his real Asian dad on the streets of Blackpool. 

‘Extra-Ordinary Lives’ is a strand of films exploring everyday people in extraordinary circumstances.

  • Kicking off this strand is the must-see English Premiere of Norway’s Oscar nomination, What will People Say, about a Pakistani girl, Nisha, who is forced to go to Pakistan after her father finds her with a white Norwegian lad, and her fight for survival and self-determination.
  • Kho Ki Pa Lu is a stunning documentary on the villagers of Nagaland (in Eastern India) and their Blues-like field songs.
  • From South India is the much lauded Tamil drama My Son is Gay
  • From the North is the road movie Mehsampur 
  • From Bangladesh is Doob (No Bed of Roses) starring Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire).

Hard hitting themes of famine and toilets

Meanwhile, by sharp contrast, a searing new documentary, Bengal Shadows interrogates the little known story of the Bengali Famine, where millions of Bengali’s perished at the British Empire and Churchill’s alleged hand in this calamity. The screening will be followed by a debate at the LSE including Economist Amartya Sen and Professor Tirthankar Roy.

Grand Prix winner at Montreal Film Festival is the charming, family film Halkaa about a slum living boy who, instead of defecating on the rail lines, dreams of having his own private toilet and his eventful mission to try to get one built. 

Mystical India

The Song of Scorpions is set in the deep deserts of Rajasthan, where a lone camel herder played by Irrfan Khan (The Lunch Box) is obsessed by a magical, female healer who has the power to sing away scorpion bites, played by Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly). 

Celebrating LGBTQ+ stories

  • Tamil feature My Son is Gay is a poignant tale of a multilayered mother son relationship, that sensitively tackles universal themes of tolerance and acceptance.
  • Documentary Bird of Dusk is a fearless, elegant and poetic insight into the career and private life of the late and legendary director Rituparno Ghosh, highlighting their relationship to their beloved city Kolkata and a personal crusade to find their non-gender specific identity.
  • Alongside these, the Closing Gala film Venus is a feel-good comedy about a trans Punjabi-Canadian who has to deal with the sudden appearance of a long-lost son.

The London Indian Film Festival 2018 kicks off on June 21st, and has screenings across London, Birmingham, and Manchester. View the full programme and buy tickets here.

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