LIFF may be over for another year, but it won’t be forgotten
From insightful documentaries and moving dramas to an original comedy about loosing your virginity, The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) returned for a 7th year with a diverse programme of masterpieces, giving an insight into the best independent cinema being made across the Indian Sub-continent and South Asia today. The largest festival of its kind in Europe, screenings took place across two cities, London and Birmingham, with films in 15 major languages, shown at 10 cinemas. It sounds impressive but it was more than that.
Dedication, passion, commitment and a genuine love for film is what fuels the festival which is run by a small team, assisted by over 50 volunteers. On hand at every screening to introduce the films, assist you to your seats and encourage you to vote for the audience award, it’s the little touches that makes coming to this festival such a pleasurable experience while it’s the major elements, the films themselves, that will leave an imprint on your memory.
LIFF Volunteers (Image: LIFF)
The over-riding theme for 2016 was women in film and audiences were treated to films directed, produced and written by women, including the opening night movie Parched. Though it sounds impressive on paper, to have women taking such a lead on and off camera, a film isn’t automatically good because it’s made by woman…or is it? The festival selections proved that actually, this is the case.
LIFF opened with Leena Yadav’s Parched, a worthy tale of four women living in Rajasthan, all facing their own fateful problems, while finding unity in friendship. Creatively told, a visual feast for the senses and breaking countless stereotypes along the way, this fresh feat of filmmaking was the most enjoyable film the festival has opened with to date.
Elsewhere female directors were behind a number of fascinating documentaries including Rinku Kalsy’s For The Love Of A Man which documents the extreme fandom that surrounds South Indian superstar Rajnikanth. An eye-opening watch it captured the obsessive passions of grown men in a way that is rarely witnessed.
It was a documentary that also took home this year’s prestigious Audience Award, voted for by the public who attend the festival. Awarded to the Oscar-winning Pakistani Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for her recent film Song Of Lahore, following local jazz musicians travel to New York for a historic concert, it was an uplifting and positive representation of the culture and creativity that exists in Pakistan but is usually sidelined in preference for stories with a more negative nature.
Sharmila Tagore (Image: LIFF)
An industry event entitled Women With A Movie Camera, brought the visiting directors and filmmakers together for a live debate while a special Evening with Sharmila Tagore was held to celebrate the evergreen screen queen, giving UK fans a chance to get close to, and hear from their heroine.
Every year The London Indian Film Festival holds a short film competition and this year’s winner was The Cobbler by Saqib Pandor, a sweet and refreshing story of a street shoemaker who’s livelihood comes under threat after he looses a client’s shoe. Powerful and engaging it was a worthy winner of the £1000 prize.
Q&As with filmmakers have always been a key feature of the festival and this year’s included two vibrant sessions filled with audience participation for Netflix comedy Brahman Naman, the films and Q&As had the crowds chuckling, and the closing night film Toba Tek Singh, where Director Ketan Mehta talked about how he adapted a short story into a feature film. Commissioned under the Zeal For Unity initiative, the film is part of a collective of 12 films made by Indian and Pakistani directors with an aim of building better relationships between both nations.
Q&A for Brahman Naman led by Asiana's Momtaz (Image: source Twitter)
And still the highlights continue. Legendary Director Shekhar Kapur who has just become the festival’s patron spoke about his career in length at a special event held at the BFI while those in the mood for partying attended a fun and colourful after party for the screening of I Am Not He…She, as part of the festival’s commitment to screening LGBT films. Showing a film about a transgender lead wasn’t the only festival first, 2016 was also the first time LIFF screened Nepali films with two in the line-up.
In just over a week, so many great films were given a chance to be seen by new audiences. But the legacy of what was seen won’t just stay in the minds of those who were there. This year The London Indian Film Festival have teamed up with BFI’s on-demand service, BFI Player, where selected festival films can be watched from the comfort of your own home. So if all the above sounds appealing but you missed the screenings, fear not, head over to the BFI Player now and bring a bit of the #loveliff spirit into your life.
Watch highlights from the Red Carpet opening night on Youtube.
See photos from the festival on Facebook.
Read our interview with Sharmila Tagore.