7th Dharamshala International Film Festival McLeodganj announces its programming highlights

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The seventh Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) will take place from 1 to 4 November 2018 in the beautiful mountain town of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala – home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the meeting point of a rich and cosmopolitan mix of people and cultures.

DIFF is presented by White Crane Arts & Media, a trust founded by filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam to promote contemporary cinema, art and independent media practices in the Himalayan regions of India.

The first edition of DIFF was held in 2012. Since then, it has established itself as one of India’s leading independent film festivals. DIFF’s cutting-edge and eclectic programming – which includes many India premieres – and its policy of inviting as many directors as possible has made it one of the go-to events in any cinephile’s calendar. Last year, the films and side programmes at DIFF attracted a viewership of around 6000, of which at least 60% were from out of town from places as far away as Kerala, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Some of India’s best-known film critics and journalists from leading media houses were on hand to cover the event.

This year, for the third time in a row, the festival will take place in the peaceful environs of the Tibetan Children’s Village, a short distance from McLeod Ganj. Along with the two existing auditoriums at the school, this year DIFF is excited to partner with Delhi-based PictureTime to set up a mobile digital theatre with state-of-the-art projection facilities at the festival venue.

Festival Director Ritu Sarin says, “We endeavour to bring a slate of unusual and trailblazing narrative, documentary and short films from around the world, as well as showcasing some of the best recent Indian independent cinema, making it a rich experience for our audience.”

Festival directors Ritu and Tenzing are delighted with the way DIFF has evolved over the years and are determined to consolidate and improve upon the standards set by previous editions. Ritu says, “A festival like DIFF, taking place in a small town with very few resources and no cinema tradition as such, requires the support and dedication of numerous individuals and organisations, as well as interns and volunteers whose enthusiasm and passion are the engine that drives our festival.” I am grateful to our long-term collaborators Thyssen-Bornemsiza Art Contemporary, the Himachal Pradesh Government who is supporting us through its Departments of Tourism and Language, Arts & Culture, and our many partners, including the National Film Development Corporation, PictureTime, Wishberry, and Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films.

Preliminary highlights from this year’s selection of films include:

Boom for Real (Sara Driver, USA, 2018)

Sara Driver’s documentary follows the pre-fame years of celebrated American artist Jean- Michael Basquiat and how New York City, the times, the people and its tectonically shifting arts culture of the late 1970s and ’80s shaped his vision.

Father to Son (Hsiao Ya-chuan, Taiwan, 2018)

Hsiao Ya-chuan’s official selection for the 47th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) takes its viewers through two unknown journeys of self-reconciliation.

In the Intense Now (João Moreira Salles, Brazil, 2017)

A Panorama selection at the 2017 Berlinale Film Festival, In the Intense Now is an immersive retelling of the Paris uprisings, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the Cultural Revolution in China using newsreel clips and home movies found through the late 1960s.

Little Forest (YIM Soon-rye, South Korea, 2018)

YIM Soon-rye of The Whistleblower and Forever the Moment fame, makes her return to the big screen with a coming-of-age story based on the 2002 Japanese manga of the same name, by Daisuke Igarashi.

A Long Way Home (Luc Schaedler, Switzerland, 2018)

A never-before heard or seen glimpse into the lives of five significant representatives of contemporary Chinese counterculture, including the famous Gao Brothers, who shed light on the social problems in their country through their own unique perspective, bravery and wit.

Namme (Zaza Khalvashi, Georgia/Lithuania, 2017)

Zaza Khalvashi’s art fantasy drama is Georgia’s official entry to the Oscars 2019. Inspired by Georgian literature and folklore, Namme narrates the story of one family’s mission to take care of a local healing water and treat fellow sick villagers with it.

The Red Phallus (Tashi Gyeltshen, Bhutan, 2018)

Bhutanese director Tashi Gyemtshen’s stunning debut, The Red Phallus, takes place in the gloomy and remote central Bhutan valley of Phobjika, where 16-year-old life with her widower father – a traditional painter and craftsman specialized in making wooden phalluses. Her dark secret comes back to haunt her.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (Stephen Nomura Schible, USA/Japan, 2017)

An insight into the life and legacy of the legendary Japanese composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda is an intimate portrait of both the artist and the man and movingly captures the creative process.

Balekempa (Ere Gowda, India, 2018)

FIPRESCI award winner at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018, Balekempa tells the story of unspoken desires and relationships that cluster around the lives of Kempanna, the bangle seller, and his wife set in Karnataka’s close-knit patriarchal community.

Ee.Ma.Yau (Lijo Jose Pellissery, India, 2018)

Cult Kerala filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery of Angamaly Diaries fame returns with a black comedy set in the coastal village of Chellanam, Kochi.

Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait (Avani Rai, India/Finland, 2018)

This intimate portrait of one of the world’s greatest photographers made its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam, in November 2017. The story of Raghu Rai and his India is told through the eyes of his own rebel daughter during their travels in and around Kashmir.

One of DIFF’s primary goals is to promote and encourage filmmaking in Himachal Pradesh. This year’s Spotlight on Himachal includes the North Indian premiere of Ridham Janve’s The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain, a Gaddi-language feature film set in the Dhauladhar mountains with a cast of non-professional Gaddi shepherds. The director and his cast will present the film in person. Shimla-based filmmaker Siddharth Chauhan will also present his much-lauded short film, Pashi.

DIFF is proud to announce that this year, the DIFF Film Fellows initiative, which was established in 2014, will focus specifically on up-and-coming filmmakers from Himachal Pradesh. This is supported by HP Government’s Department of Language, Arts and Culture. Five filmmakers will be selected and mentored by renowned National Award-winning filmmaker Gurvinder Singh and award-winning documentary filmmaker Anupama Srinivasan.

This year, DIFF is also thrilled to host the first Dharamshala-PJLF Editing Workshop. This initiative is supported by NFDC. Two director-editor teams will be selected from across the country and mentored by internationally renowned editor Jacques Comets who co-headed the editing department at France’s leading film school, La Femis, along with editor and Artistic Director of the Kerala International Film Festival, Bina Paul, and producer and script/editing mentor Olivia Stewart.

DIFF has always recognised the importance of short films as a category in its own right and this year, for the fifth year in a row, filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni has curated a selection of the best of current Indian shorts. In addition, DIFF is partnering with Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films to present a package of short films. The popular DIFF Children’s Film Programme is once again curated by Children’s Media Specialist, Monica Wahi.

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