The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) announced the lineup of official selections for the 20th annual edition which will mark a return to in-person screenings and events.
Including a Gala presentation of Pan Nalin’s Last Film Show, IFFLA will showcase 26 films (10 features, 16 shorts), including the world premiere of Anmol Sidhu’s Jaggi, and the North American premieres of Faraz Ali’s Shoebox and Natesh Hegde’s Pedro.
IFFLA Executive Director Christina Marouda, said, “Reflecting on IFFLA’s 20 years, we find ourselves overjoyed by the range of incredible talent we have discovered and celebrated, introducing numerous emerging and established voices to Los Angeles. We are also incredibly proud of the sense of family and community we have accomplished over the last 20 years. We are now ramping up our efforts to support the careers of filmmakers by adding to the programs IFFLA has become known for over the past two decades, not just as a touchstone for our filmmakers, but also as a bridge to their next films.”
IFFLA’s Gala selection, Pan Nalin’s Last Film Show is the filmmaker’s celebration of the love of cinema through the story of a boy who stumbles upon a rundown movie theater and then charms his way into a daily seat in the projection room. However, when the theater upgrades from film to digital, his new wondrous world may be lost unless he and his friends can create their own “theater.” The crowd-pleasing Last Film Show by IFFLA’s beloved alum Pan Nalin, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and has traveled to film festivals across the world. A second Gala presentation will be announced at a later date.
Three feature film directorial debuts will have major premiere screenings at IFFLA. Making its world premiere, Anmol Sidhu’s Jaggi follows a schoolboy in rural Punjab who faces toxic masculinity and sexual abuse when he’s assumed to be gay. Making its North American premiere is Faraz Ali’s Shoebox. The film tells a coming-of-age story, which centers on a young woman who watches her father struggle to keep the family’s single screen movie theater operating while everything changes around them. Also making its North American premiere is Natesh Hegde’s Pedro. The film focuses on a taciturn electrician who becomes a social outcast in his small Karnataka town after becoming involved in a drunken incident.
Additional highlights among the feature film lineup include Irfana Majumdar’s Shankar’s Fairies, a delicate tapestry of a tale set in 1960s Lucknow about the touching bond that develops between the young daughter of a police chief and the family’s head servant, through his fantastical stories. Aditya Sengupta’s sumptuous Bengali drama Once Upon a Time in Calcutta follows an aging actress in games of power with five different men through the dark secrets of a disintegrating city. Nithin Lukose’s critically acclaimed directorial debut, Paka (River of Blood), produced by Anurag Kashyap, is a revenge thriller that pits two rival families against each other over a Romeo and Juliet-type forbidden romance. Rahul Jain’s documentary Invisible Demons, which premiered in Cannes’ Cinema for the Climate section,explores the detrimental effects of India’s growing economy on the environment, in the sprawling city of Delhi. Jain takes the subject matter personally as he reflects on our collective responsibility regarding climate change and protecting our planet.
Heading IFFLA’s new Spotlight on South Asia section, which will showcase some of the most groundbreaking new work coming out of the greater South Asian subcontinent and its diasporas, is Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s psychological thriller Rehana (Rehana Maryam Noor) about a professor and single mother, who puts her family and life on the line to bring justice to a male colleague accused of sexually assaulting a student. The film made history for being the first film from Bangladesh to compete at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard. The spotlight includes the shorts 1978 (Pakistan) by award-winning director Hamza Bangash, Salar Pashtoonyar’s 2021 Student Academy Award winner Bad Omen (Afghanistan/Canada), Sunil Pandey’s Rotterdam 2022 selection Baghthan (Nepal), Nuhash Humayun’s 2022 SXSW Midnight Shorts Grand Jury Prize winner Moshari (Bangladesh), and Seemab Gul’s Sandstorm (Pakistan), which premiered at the 2021 Biennale’s Orizzonti.
As part of IFFLA’s 20th Anniversary celebration, the festival will showcase a hybrid presentation of 20 short films representing its diverse programming over the past two decades. Highlights include Umesh Kulkarni’s absurdist tale The Fly (Makkhi), the Academy Award nominated The Little Terrorist by Ashvin Kumar, and acclaimed director Nagraj Manjule’s An Essay of the Rain. A selection of this lineup will be presented in the program IFFLA Celebrates 20 Years: Indian Cinema Shorts and will be screened in partnership with NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) on Saturday, April 23 as a part of NFMLA’s annual InFocus: Asian Cinema Program. Following that special presentation, the films will be available to stream online during IFFLA’s dates.
Screenings will take place at the Regal LA Live (1000 W. Olympic Blvd.), Harmony Gold (7655 Sunset Blvd.), and UCLA’s James Bridges Theater (235 Charles E Young Dr. E).
2022 IFFLA’s Official Selections
Last Film Show
Director: Pan Nalin
Country: India/France; Running Time: 111 min
Samay, a 9-year-old boy living with his family in a remote village in India, discovers films for the first time and is absolutely mesmerized. Against his father’s wishes, he returns to the cinema day after day to watch more films, and even befriends the projectionist, who, in exchange for his lunch box, lets him watch movies for free. He quickly figures out that stories become light, light becomes films, and films become dreams. Samay and his wild gang of friends move heaven and earth to catch and project light to achieve a 35mm film projection. But little do they know that soon they’ll be forced to make heartbreaking choices as an era is approaching to annihilate everything they love about their 35mm dreams.
Director: Ritwik Pareek
Country: India; Running Time: 107 min
A religious satire brimming with vibrant color and irreverent glee, Dug Dug explodes onto the screen right from its bravura opening sequence. When the sloppy escapades of a local drunkard result in a freak motorcycle accident that takes his life, his motorbike is salvaged and locked away at the nearby police headquarters. When the bike suddenly appears inexplicably back at the crash site the next day, the community becomes convinced that it is not only a miracle but an act of divinity. Soon after, locals begin making offerings to the motorbike altar, praying for salvation and worshiping the bike with a startling holy fervor.
Jaggi (World Premiere)
Director: Anmol Sidhu
Country: India; Running Time: 119 min
In Anmol Sidhu’s urgent feature debut, rural Punjab’s famous fertile farmlands belie dark family secrets, bleak cycles of exploitation, and a vacuous rotation of fallacy and superstition. No one realizes this better than Jaggi, the sweet son of a policeman whose sexual impotence is relentlessly misinterpreted by his peers at his high school. Jaggi must be gay, these horny schoolboys concoct, and thus has the right to be assaulted. When Jaggi finds himself in a relationship, can he break out of this cycle of abuse?
Once Upon a Time in Calcutta
Director: Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Country: India; Running Time: 133 min
For Ela (an inimitable Sreelekha Mitra), the death of her daughter is the last nail in the coffin in a marriage turning sour. As she decides to step out to reclaim her identity and rebuild her life, Aditya Vikram Sengupta takes the viewers on an evocative journey into the heart of a dark and gloomy Kolkata, a city that is caught between a decrepit old theater on the verge of collapse, and a brand-new statue, which, ironically, is one of the extinct dinosaurs.
Paka (River of Blood)
Director: Nithin Lukose
Country: India; Running Time: 101 min
Debuting at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival’s competitive Discovery section and presented by Anurag Kashyap, Paka (River of Blood)heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in world cinema. The film unfurls along the titular river, a blood-soaked body of water deep in the forests of Kerala that has laid witness to a savage, decade-spanning feud between two families locked in a violent spiral of hate. Shrouded in secrecy is the forbidden romance between Johnny (Basil Paulose) and Anna (Vinitha Koshy), star-crossed lovers trapped in a dangerous game fueled by vengeance and rage.
Pedro (North American Premiere)
Director: Natesh Hegde
Country: India; Running Time: 109 min
A deceptively calm but disquieting film, Pedro’s evocation of life in rural Karnataka harbors unfathomable strife and brutality–of social codes and hierarchies, feudalism and fanaticism. All it takes is reclusive local electrician Pedro to misfire a shot, aimed initially at a wild boar, to bring it all to the surface.
Director: Irfana Majumdar
Country: India; Running Time: 93 min
In 1962 post British Lucknow, Shankar helps run the estate of the local police chief and his wife, who value him strictly within the colonialist class and caste system they’ve inherited. But for one person, Shankar is no doubt the MVP, and that’s Anjana, the chief’s young daughter, who dotes on him and laps up his fantastical stories. He may be without a formal education, but his influence on little Anjana is expansive and deeply endearing.
Shoebox (North American Premiere)
Director: Faraz Ali
Country: India; Running Time: 94 min
Languages: Hindi, Bengali, English
Following news of her father’s illness, Mampu leaves her college life in Pune and returns to her hometown in Allahabad. Amidst a turbulent sociopolitical climate that wants the old razed to dust, the city is a shell of its former self, gutted off its rich secular history, and granted a new, Hindu-centric name. Victim to the times is also the movie theater Mampu’s father has proudly operated for years, now prey to ruthless retail developers. We follow Mampu across fragments of memory she finds refuge in, as she urgently strives to reconnect with her obstinate father who vigorously clings on to a life that’s fast disappearing. As the narrative takes unexpected turns, Mampu must take hold of the reins, and choose what battles are worth fighting.
Director: Rahul Jain
Countries: Finland/Germany/India; Running Time: 70 min
Languages: English, Hindi
An evocative journey through Delhi’s multi-pronged environmental disaster is guided by testimonies of those whose daily lives bear witness to the very real and dangerous cost of India’s unchecked growth as a capitalist economy.
SPOTLIGHT ON SOUTH ASIA
Director: Abdullah Mohammad Saad
Countries: Bangladesh/Singapore/Qatar; Running Time: 107 min
Rehana is an assistant professor of medicine, notorious for her uncompromising moral compass which has earned her respect and fear in equal measure. No one at her university, however, is prepared for the hungry quest for justice she embarks upon when she discovers that a well-liked professor is abusing a female student, even as the victim herself refuses to speak out against the abuser.
Director: Hamza Bangash
Country: Pakistan; Running Time: 17 min
Language: Urdu, English
A Christian rock star in increasingly conservative 1978 Pakistan must choose between sticking to his renegade musical sensibilities or reinventing himself as a State-sanctioned singer.
Director: Salar Pashtoonyar
Country: Afghanistan/Canada; Running Time: 19 min
As Pari, a seamstress who has lost her husband in the Afghanistan war, searches for ways to pay for prescription glasses she needs to continue working, she gets thrown into a maze of obstacles that deny her dignity in grief.
Baghthan (North American Premiere)
Director: Sunil Pandey
Country: Nepal; Running Time: 20 min
Haunted by his late wife whose ghost still wanders amidst the rubble of his desolate Nepali village, an old man reminisces of his community’s glorious victory over a ferocious tiger, long before the ravage of migration.
Director: Nuhash Humayun
Country: Bangladesh; Running Time: 21 min
In a dark new world, the ‘moshari’, a traditional South Asian mosquito net, becomes the only means of life-saving protection for two sisters against mysterious bloodthirsty nocturnal creatures.
Director: Seemab Gul
Country: Pakistan; Running Time: 20 min
When Zara, a teenager from a conservative Karachi household, sends a video of her dance moves to her online boyfriend, she finds herself contending with the forces of patriarchy intent on bringing her down.
SHORT FILMS (MAIN LINEUP)
7 Star Dinosor Entertainment (North American Premiere)
Director: Vaishali Naik
Country: India; Running Time: 20 min
Two migrant brothers in Mumbai, who had made a bizarre business out of dressing up as giant dinosaurs and performing at parties, face abject hunger and penury when their venture comes to a halt during the pandemic.
Adventures of Faisal Rehman (World Premiere)
Director: Mir Ijlal Shaani
Country: India; Running Time: 9 min
Languages: Hindi, Urdu
Faisal Rehman, an ordinary nobody, marches on to his average life, still hanging on to the intoxicating beauty of last night’s phenomenal one-night stand.
Close Ties To Home Country
Director: Akanksha Cruczynski
Country: United States; Running Time: 15 min
Languages: English, Hindi
A young South Asian woman studying in the US on a scholarship charts disparate worlds within the diaspora, as she navigates the pain of living from one visa renewal to another.
Holy Cowboys (World Premiere)
Director: Varun Chopra
Country: India/USA; Running Time: 24 min
Languages: Hindi, Gujarati
A disturbing look into the world of recruitment of young cow vigilantes, and how the righteous urge to protect cows eventually morphs into bigotry, communal divide, and violence.
I Don’t Feel Like Knowing You (Ancora Non Lo So) (North American Premiere)
Director: Maaria Sayed
Countries: India/Italy; Running Time: 15 min
Languages: Italian, Urdu
An Indian Muslim teenager living in a small Italian town spends her summer in blissful repose with her white boyfriend, until the arrival of another Muslim immigrant family, and particularly their daughter, catches her eye.
Director: Yudhajit Basu
Country: India; Running Time: 20 min
The legend of the rebellious goddess Kalsu, preserved through indigenous songs and oral storytelling by the women of the Mahadeo Koli tribe, is hauntingly narrated in this dreamlike ethnographic film.
Lalanna’s Song (World Premiere)
Director: Megha Ramaswamy
Country: India; Running Time: 34 min
Languages: Malayalam, Hindi
When two disenchanted young mothers encounter Lalanna, a precocious preteen girl who seems to possess all the confidence and power they have lost, they are overcome by a merciless instinct to set her straight.
The Return (North American Premiere)
Director: Hena Ashraf
Countries: USA/India; Running Time: 18 min
Languages: English, Urdu
A filmmaker retraces her strained relationship with her father and makes a film to find a closure that has evaded her all her life.
Succulent (North American Premiere)
Director: Amrita Bagchi
Country: India; Running Time: 30 min
Languages: Hindi, English
Set in a not-too-distant future, an obsessive plant lover is employed by a strange caregiving agency that offers members a service where proxies of lost loved ones are brought back to reality through intimate roleplaying.
Tomorrow My Love (North American Premiere)
Director: Gitanjali Rao
Country: India; Running Time: 4 min
The caress of a beloved song is all an elderly man can offer his wife who lies in isolation at a Covid hospital ward.
Under the Waters (World Premiere)
Director: Ambiecka Pandit
Country: India; Running Time: 18 min
While two families vacation together, a pubescent boy finds himself reckoning with a confusing erotic experience at the pool that leaves him shaken and reeling.