This year marks BIFF’s 5th anniversary and it promises to be a showcase of rich, entertaining and thought-provoking independent films.
Friday 21 June
Article 15 – Opening Film
Cineworld Broad Street | 7pm | (Red Carpet from 18.30)
India’s hottest male star Ayushmann Khurrana (Andhadhun, Badhai Ho) plays a police officer from a privileged urban, international, background, whose very first posting is to rural north India, where three teenage girls have gone missing. His honesty does not sit well with the existing, deeply entrenched corrupt system where, in 2019, a 1000-year-old practice where human beings are divided on the basis of caste continues. Beginning as a riveting police procedural that is a True Detective-like deep-dive into the Indian bayou, Article 15 soon elevates to a gutsy exposé of a deeply flawed structure. The film’s title is a reference to an article of the Indian constitution that prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, race or sex.
Q&A with Anubhav Sinha and others
Saturday 22 June
Satyajit Ray Short Film Award
The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen| 2pm
The festival’s annual Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition and Award is a rare chance to see the works of talented, emerging filmmakers, who are exploring themes of South Asian Experience. The competition’s final shortlist films will be screened at the festival and the winner of the 2019 award is announced on the festival’s Closing Night in London. In association with the Bagri Foundation.
NOOREH | Ashish Pandey | 22 mins | Urdu
A young girl living on the India/Pakistan border discovers that gunfire stops if she stays awake at night.
ALIEN CULTURE | Iesh Thapar | 16 mins | English
Southall 1979 with tensions running high, a young man thinks his brother is in trouble but the truth is far from what he imagined.
THESE SILENCES ARE ALL THE WORDS | Madhia Aijaz | 15 mins | Urdu
A poetic essay on the public libraries of Pakistan
U USHACHA | Rohan Kanwade | 21 mins | Marathi
A young farm labourer finds herself drawn to a local primary school teacher in ways she never thought possible.
KARK PAWAN | Preet Nayak | 26 mins | Hindi
A young woman hopes her monotonous life takes a turn after meeting a stranger and falling in love.
RAMMAT GAMMAT | Ajitpal singh | 17 mins | Gujarati
Two young boys friendship is tested when a pair of football boots goes missing.
Legendary Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta, akin to Guillermo Del Toro, introduces perhaps his finest film. An idealistic villager discovers a wrecked WW2 Japanese warplane deep in a ghostly forest. Seeing passenger planes overhead, his dream has always been to fly. He sets about secretly repairing it, but as he starts enquiring about an engine, the military find out and he is soon considered a national threat. This latest film from the veteran director is timeless parable full of magic and mystery around a man trying to follow his dreams no matter the cost.
Q&A with Buddhadeb Dasgupta
Life for half-widows in Kashmir can be dire, with many hurdles to cross to maintain even a routine existence. Aasia works as a nurse in a hospital to maintain herself, her 11-year-old daughter and her sick mother-in-law. She spends her days working, looking after her family and trying to obtain a death certificate for her husband who had been taken away by the police and presumed dead. With her life in limbo, unable to neither re-marry, or settle her considerable financial debt without a death certificate, a conniving government official looks to take advantage, forcing Aasia to make difficult decisions to overcome her absurd plight. Widow of Silence is gripping and soulful film with breathtaking visuals of the Kashmir landscape.
Q&A with Pravin Morchhale
Sunday 23 June
India’s greatest documentarian Anand Patwardhan (Jai Bhim Comrade, War And Peace) returns with this powerful chronicle of contemporary India that depicts how, after decades of relatively peaceful secular democracy, the country is now divided by religion, caste and power, and the inevitable violence that ensues. Patwardhan initially follows activists, rationalists and dissenters Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare and then broadens his gaze to look at questions of communism, caste and freedom of speech. What Patwardhan depicts is not pretty, portraying as it does India’s rapid march towards being a right wing nation where free speech is muzzled by any means necessary, including murder. A riveting and sobering film that will inform, agitate and frustrate in equal measure, Reason is a must watch, and is perhaps the most important film to emerge from India in recent years.
Q&A with Anand Patwardhan.
An aspiring actor doubling as an amateur gigolo gets caught up a sticky situation after accepting a surprise gift from an anonymous client. Anish is desperately trying to make it as an actor but his dire financial situation pushes him to look for an escape, which he finds with an anonymous wealthy client. Called to her place one day for a rendezvous, he turns up only to be met with a surprise gift, “a murder”. He finds himself framed for a murder he didn’t commit with a witness who is convinced he is the culprit. Arishadvarga is a smart and tense neo-noir thriller that will have guessing who did it till the very end.
Monday 24 June
After winning hearts and awards the world over, Rohena Gera’s charmer comes to the UK
A wealthy young Indian man in Mumbai with baggage from the past falls in love with his servant, a widow who dreams of becoming a tailor. Sir looks at the age-old divide between the classes in India and wonders if it can ever be bridged. Brilliant performances from Tillotama Shome (Manto) and Vivek Gomber (Court) ensure that the film captivates. Sir debuted at Cannes and has since charmed the world.
Q&A with Rohena Gera
Tuesday 25 June
This inspirational documentary will have you in tears and every Indian glowing with pride. The film essentially uncovers one little-known story of unimaginable humanity, generosity and kindness. Towards the end of WW2 the Polish ambassadorial team in Bombay, led by determined heroine Kira Banasinska and supported by a local Maharaja, dispatched a convoy of food relief thousands of miles to Soviet Siberian labour camps where Polish women and children were starving. To the British Raj’s surprise they returned with 5,500 women and children who found refuge and welcome in India. Over 70 years later a number of now elderly Polish people return to a town South of Mumbai where they were able to find safety and discover the joys of childhood.
A retired, nondescript widower Ram Nath Gadhvi inadvertently takes on the establishment and suddenly becomes a social media sensation. He begins to take on Gandhi’s pacifist principles, but is no ordinary Gandhian, believing he is the reincarnation of the Mahatma itself. In the process Gadhvi attracts more and more followers, but also enemies seeking to bring him down, including hired-gun Omkar, who has been tasked with suppressing the swelling anger against the establishment by shattering Gadhvi’s delusion and crushing his core beliefs. Gaurav Bakshi’s debut feature film is sharp social and political satire that plays out like a thriller where the audience is left guessing about who Gadhvi really is and if he is actually Gandhi’s reincarnation.
Wednesday 26 June
The Martin Scorsese of India. A rare chance to hear the experiences of India’s most famed cult director. Anurag Kashyap is a unique talent and is India’s best-known filmmaker on the global festival circuit. His Netflix series Sacred Games was a global smash hit and is set for season 2. He flits across genres, ranging from edgy, provocative fare like Dev. D, Ugly, Raman Raghav 2.0 to the two-part Godfather-like rural gangland epic Gangs Of Wasseypur, the political punch of Gulaal and Black Friday, and the unusual love stories Manmarziyaan and Mukkabaaz. Known for his outspoken nature, Kashyap pulls no punches on stage, and his deep insights on cinema are valued around the world.
Thursday 27 June
Three teenage best friends in rural Assam, northeast India, are on the cusp of adulthood. As they forge their distinct personalities, they must deal with the reality of outmoded customs that threaten their very existence. Love, secrecy, pathos, humour, and passion – the film has it all. Rima Das made a global splash with Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing continues to prove her humane, world-class talent. A coming of age tale that is a breath of fresh air, Bulbul Can Sing won prestigious awards at the Berlin, Dublin, Singapore and Mumbai film festivals.
Q&A with Rima Das
Friday 28 June
Bangladeshi auteur Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (No Bed Of Roses) returns with this tense thriller shot in a single take where terrorists take over an eatery in Dhaka, resulting in a siege scenario and multiple deaths. Loosely based on real events, the riveting film takes a close look at the roots of modern day terrorism through political, social and gender implications. Adding gravitas to this gut-puncher are a plethora of international stars, including India’s Parambrata Chatterjee (Shah Jahan Regency), Bangladesh’s Nusrat Imrose Tisha (Sincerely Yours, Dhaka) and Palestine’s Eyad Hourani (Omar).
Q&A with Mostofa Sarwar Farooki
Saturday 29 June
Part of an emerging queer cinema from South India Kattumaran tells of patriarch Singaram and his orphaned niece Anan, fisher-folk survivors of the Tsunami. Beautiful Anan teaches in the local school, where she falls for a new female supply teacher. As Singaram tries to come to terms with this revelation, he is ostracized by the community. Gossip about the women’s relationship spreads further and Singaram is left facing the choice to either defend his beloved niece or give sway to an angry community. Kattumaram is a beautiful and tender tale of unconditional love.
Chuskit is a sprightly and mischievous young girl whose dreams of going to school are cut short after an accident leaves her disabled. She is confined to life indoors in the company of her strict grandfather, Dorje, who is adamant she can no longer go to school and must stay at home. As life at home gets harder, her battle with her grandfather intensifies but Chuskit refuses to let go of her dreams and won’t let her family’s traditional background dictate her future. Set in the mountainous region of Ladakh, Chuskit is a beautiful and heart-warming film about following your dreams.
Q&A with Priya Ramasubban
Cineworld Broad Street | 7pm
Ardass Karaan explores the Generation Gap faced by families. Three elderly men live in Canada with their families and realise that each generation has a different conflicting opinion about life. The elderly men believe spending time with each other and communicating may help bridge their gap. But each time the family plans to spend time with each other they end up arguing. One day the elderly gentlemen come across Sehaj and Magic who are full of positivity and agree to help them understand their families but are given a week to accomplish this. Will Sehaj and Magic manage to find a common thread for the three differing generations to live together in harmony? How will they use Ardaas ( prayer) to convey their message about life?
Q&A with Gippy Grewal and others
Monday 1 July
Photograph – Closing film
Midlands Arts Centre | 7pm
Cannes hit The Lunchbox took the world by storm with box office success in all territories. Its director Ritesh Batra returns to the big screen with this nuanced romance between unlikely lovers. Acting legend Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Rafi, a humble street photographer outside the Gateway of India, Mumbai. He photographs an attractive young wealthy woman Miloni, who disappears without paying. Keeping her photo, he tries to fob off his marriage-peddling granny by sending her the photo to show his success, but impressed, she is soon heading to Mumbai to meet the marriage prospect. Rafi manages to track down Miloni and convince her to pretend to be his fiancée, and, partly intrigued by rough diamond Rafi’s request and partly because she’s looking for something extraordinary, she agrees.
Check out BIFF’s website here.
Sampad are proud supporters of Birmingham Indian Film Festival.