Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Experience: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA 2016)

When I sit down to write this piece on my experience on attending ‘Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA 2016)’ at Los Angeles, USA, I am still carrying the hangover of this wonderful event. Indeed it was a dream come true experience for me. The very atmosphere of film festivals does mesmerize me. Literally I can ‘eat films, drink films and sleep films. I have witnessed a few film festivals in India too and every experience gave me new insights into the world of cinema.

This film festival is special to me due to many personal reasons. Yes, as the first love matters, the ‘first time’ matters. There are many ‘firsts’ in this film festival. This was my first ever International Film Festival. This was my first film festival where I had the Press Badge with me. This was my first International Solo Trip. So, with so many ‘firsts’, this Indian Film Festival at Los Angeles has become a very intriguing experience for me, which I am going to cherish forever in my life. Let me try sharing with you a glimpse of the happenings at IFFLA in the best manner possible, so that I can take you through the corridors of my experience of this wonderful film festival.

Three days spent with lot of excitement

I would like to begin with my first interaction with IFFLA officials which was followed by their connecting me to their PR firm officials Mitch, Karen and Tiffany. Oh, I must say that what a prompt response I got from IFFLA as well as their PR team. I am really impressed with the swiftness with which my all queries were responded, issued me the Press Badge. Witnessed an epitome of professionalism from IFFLA as well as their support team.

My Press Badge
About IFFLA: This was the 14th year of IFFLA. It is a non-profit organization devoted to a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture by showcasing films. It has the reputation of its commitment towards supporting and celebrating the new wave of Indian Cinema, promoting a multitude of cinematic perspectives from India and the Indian diaspora, and bridging the gap between the two largest entertainment industries in the world – Hollywood and India. In Christina Marouda’s words (Founder and Chair of the board): “We are thrilled and proud to present an eclectic line-up that reflects the diversity of Indian Cinema, as well as the future of Indian film-making, with cutting-edge filmmakers taking bold risks, defying convention, and responding to injustice.”

The Venue: The venue was ArcLight Hollywood, IFFLA’s home since its inception. A grand venue for the film festival. It is a 14-screen multiplex with great infrastructure.

Image Courtesy: Click Here
Dates: The dates of the 14th Indian Film Festival at Los Angeles were 6-10th April, 2016. Due to my preoccupations, I could not attend initial 2 days, but could attend from 8-10th April, 2016. 

Line up of Films: This festival showcased some of the best films. This year’s programme celebrated women filmmakers as well as regional cinema including films in Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, Punjabi, Bengali, Urdu and Assamese. The schedule at a glance.

Opening Night Gala: Opening film was director Pan Nalin’s film ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ - Refer this link, which has gathered rave reviews in India too. 

Image Courtesy: Facebook Page of Angry Indian Goddesses
Opening Night Gala: Image Courtesy
The films shown in the IFFLA are listed below. Links for synopsis of various films are also given. The synopsis' courtesy is  official web page of IFFLA i.e. 

Hindi Films:                
Aligarh                (Click here for synopsis)     
Island City           (Click here for synopsis)
Masaan                (Click here for synopsis)
Parched               (Click here for synopsis)
Sujata                 (Click here for synopsis)
Umrika                (Click here for synopsis)

Hindi and English Films:
CRD                     (Click here for synopsis)
Khoya                  (Click here for synopsis)

Punjabi and Hindi Film:
Beeba Boys          (Click here for synopsis)

English Films:
Brahman Naman  (Click here for synopsis)
The Tiger Hunter (Click here for synopsis)

Tamil Film:
Kirumi (Virus)      (Click here for synopsis)
Visaaranai (Interrogation)  (Click here for synopsis)

Tamil and English Film:
For the Love of a Man  (Click here for synopsis)

Assamese Film:
Kothanodi (River of Fables)  (Click here for synopsis)

Malayalam Film:
Ottaal (The trap)   (Click here for synopsis)

Short Films:
Playgrounds (Hindi and Tamil)

Love comes later (English)

Shorts Programme 1(Click here for synopsis)
Ashrut (Silent Voices) (Bengali)  
Bunny (Non Dialogue)                
Daaravtha (The Threshold) (Marathi)  
The Manliest Man (Hindi and Bundeli)  

Shorts Programme 2 (Click here for synopsis) :
Babu’s Dilemma (Hindi and English)     
Chhaya (The shadow) (Non-dialogue)  
Leeches (Urdu and Dakhani)               
Mast Qalandar (Punjabi and Hindi)       
Mochi (The Cobbler) (Hindi and Marathi)  

Closing Night Gala: Closing film was director Anu Menon’s film ‘Waiting’ (Refer here), which is going to be released in India on 29th April, 2016.

Image Courtesy: IFFLA's official page
A beautiful film which touched my heart. Click here for its detailed review.

The Filmmaker Roundtable: Another highlight of this film festival was ‘The Filmmaker Roundtable). Nine filmmakers participated actively where discussions revolved around the independent cinemas getting more visibility, acceptance, Indian censor board policies and collaborating as a community to grow and evolve further. This was moderated by John Nein (senior Programmer, Sundance Film Festival) – Extreme left in the photograph below. The filmmakers who made this a very interesting discussion were (Left-right in the photograph) : Anu Menon (Waiting), Q (Brahman Naman), Ruchika Oberoi (Island City), Leena Yadav (Parched), Sami Khan (Khoya), Hansal Mehta (Aligarh), Kranti Kanade (CRD), Bhaskar Hazarika (Kothanodi), Vettri Maran (Visaaranai)  

My personal favourites: Since I could attend only 3-days film festival, my personal favourites don’t cover two-days’ films. Out of the films I watched, my favourites are : Aligarh, Masaan, Waiting, Parched, Visaaranai. Please do read my reviews of Aligarh (Click here), Masaan (Click here) and Waiting (Click here). I would certainly be posting review of Parched too.

The film festival ended on 10th April, 2016 with a grand dinner and cocktail party organized at Spice Affair, Beverly Hills. DJ created a perfect environment and the filmmakers as well as film lovers danced together.

The Award winners: Grand Jury Awards as well as Audience Choice Awards were declared.

Grand Jury Awards:
Best Feature: Visaaranai (Interrogation)
Best Actor: Sanjay Mishra (Masaan)
Best Actress: The Cast of Parched – Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Lehar Khan
Feature Honourable Mention: Aligarh
Feature Honourable Mention: Masaan
Best Short Film: Playgrounds
Short Film Honourable Mention: Leeches
Short Film Honourable Mention: The Manliest Man

Audience Choice Awards:
Best Feature: Parched
Best Short: Daarvatha (The Threshold)

My personal feeling: I really feel elated with this opportunity of getting to attend IFFLA. And as always, I really get delighted to meet the film makers and film personalities in person, interact with them, to know regarding their challenges and highs of film industry. And yes, as always, my selfie-spree continues.

Indian Film festival at Los Angeles certainly could bring the best films to its platform. A very well organized film festival. Kudos to IFFLA team.