It’s that time of the year again for cinephiles: the sixth edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) is going to be held from 2-5 November. Conceptualized and curated by filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, DIFF is known for its quality mixture of feature films, documentaries and animation films from around the world. If you’re heading up to the beauteous hills of McLeodganj for the festival, here’s a handy guide for you, which you simply cannot afford to miss. Commenting upon the many films from Northeast this year, Ritu says, “The success of Kothanodi, Village Rockstars and Ralang Road bode well for the future of films from the region. Though we can’t call it a unified film movement as such, owing to its vast diversity, once we watched the films, we knew we had to show them. There is a freshness of approach, subject-matter and style that is drawing rave attention”.
Village Rockstars (Director: Rima Das, Country: India)
One of the indie flavours of the season, director Rima Das’s Village Rockstars has been showered with rave reviews on the festival circuit, with the film’s cinematography and feel-good vibes being praised in particular. Set in the Assamese village of Kalardiya, this is the story of young Dhunu, a ten-year-old girl determined to start her own band, aided and abetted by her equally young friends. As a film with untrained crew and one female director multitasking, Village Rockstars won 3 awards at MAMI festival this month.
Newton (Director: Amit Masurkar, Country: India)
India’s official entry to the Oscars this year and easily the most talked about Indian film of 2017, Newton is a riveting black comedy about Newton Kumar, an idealistic young government clerk determined to bring free and fair elections to the badlands of Chhattisgarh, in central India. Rajkummar Rao delivers a bravura performance as the titular protagonist, struggling to come to terms with trigger-happy Naxalites, callous and indifferent government officials—and the plight of the local adivasis, who are perpetually stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Land of the Little People (Director: Yaniv Berman, Country: Israel)
This Hebrew-language film is a fascinating exploration of the way children process—and sometimes normalize—violence. The story follows a group of four children in an Israeli army village. Their fathers are off to fight another war while their anxious mothers are glued to the TV screens, fearing what the news might tell them next. The children find themselves in a face-off against a pair of deserting soldiers, over an abandoned military base. Who will blink first: the soldiers who’re fleeing from the war or the children who’ve lived the war since the day they were born?
Kirsten Johnson’s 2016 memoir based film is bound to take our breath away. An immensely thoughtful portrayal of post-war life from varied footages compiled over 25-years, it intervenes into the very art of documentary film making. Her usage of personal life clips, including that of mental illness makes it a very bold narrative. This film won The Critics Choice Documentary award for the “Most compelling living subject of a documentary” last year amongst other awards and nominations.
Rahul Jain’s crucial documentary on textile labourers- Machines is bound to be one of the best in the line-up. It has no voice-overs or any musical background numbers but a free-flow meditation into a textile factory in Gujarat, India. It won the Sundance Film Festival 2017 and World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for excellence in Cinematography. It has been screened at over 50 festivals across the world and won multiple laurels.
SHORTS AND ANIMATIONS
DIFF’s fifth selection of short films from India is curated by renowned Marathi filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni. These include: Taandav by Devashish Makhija, Afternoon Clouds by Payal Kapadia (the only Indian film to compete at Cannes 2017), Assamese film Days of Autumn by Mukul Haloi(screened to appreciation at International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala 2017, India) among others.
Everyone’s favourite children’s author Roald Dahl will come alive in animation at the festival. His book Revolting Rhymes is the subject of a 58 min-long animation film directed by Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer. It has six fairy tales retold and reinterpreted for 8-10 year olds. Then, there is also Dutch children’s feature The Day My Father Became a Bush, directed by Nicole van Kilsdonk who is the winner of professional Jury Award KinoKino – International Film Festival for Children, Zagreb, Croatia. It is based on an award-winning book by Joke Van Leeuwen.
Storytellers, and film-buffs, here’s a reason to rejoice!