The Dharamshala International Film Festival is back with a programme that includes Indian independent films, documentaries and short films and a selection of festival-feted international productions. Among the noteworthy premieres at the tenth edition are Egyptian director Omar El Zohairy’s Feathers, the Spanish-language El Planeta, Faraz Ali’s Shoebox and Ashish Pant’s Uljhan.

In Feathers, a magic trick turns a domineering man into a chicken, leading to unforeseen consequences for his family. El Zohairy’s absurdist comedy won the top award at the Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

Argentinean director Amalia Ulman’s El Planeta centres on a mother-daughter pair of scamsters. Ulman and her own mother play the leads in the film.

Feathers (2021).

The festival is organised every year by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam in Dharamshala. The event went online in 2020 on account of the coronavirus pandemic. This year too, DIFF will be an online-only affair that will run between November 4 and November 10. Information on delegate passes and the full schedule are available at

The Indian films include Shoebox, which sets the demise of a single-screen cinema in Allahabad against rising gentrification in the city. Uljhan looks at the fallout of an accident on a couple in Lucknow.

Among the Indian fare is the experimental To Caterpillar, From Butterfly by Aakarsh Sansanwal and Agrim Sansanwal and Pushpendra Singh’s Laila Aur Satt Geet, an allegory set in Kashmir. Singh, whose previous films include Ashwatthama and Pearl of the Desert, will participate in a conversation about his filmmaking approach and the challenges of independent cinema.

Laila Aur Satt Geet (2020).

The international features include Mohammad Rasoulof’s 2020 Berlin festival winner There is No Evil, Andrei Konchalovsky’s Dear Comrades!, which was Russia’s submission for the international film Oscar last year, and Lili Horvat’s Hungarian feature Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time.

Also in the lineup are Tan Bee Thiam’s Tiong Bahru Social Club, a Singaporean black comedy, and Gaysorn Thavat’s The Justice of Bunny King from New Zealand. Clara Roquet’s Libertad revolves around the friendship between two teenagers.

Anshul Chauhan’s Japanese-language Kontora (2019) will be shown in India for the first time via DIFF.

Dear Comrades! (2020).

The lineup includes films about children (such as Rima Das’s Village Rockstars and Ale Abreu’s Oscar-nominated animated feature The Boy and the World) and short films (among them Rishi Chandna’s Tungrus and Gurvinder Singh’s Ghuspaithiya.)

Films from the subcontinent include Pakistani director Anam Abbas’s This Stained Dawn, Bangladeshi director Naeem Mohaiemen’s Kolkata-set Jole Dobe Na and Tibetan filmmaker Ngawang Choephel’s Ganden: A Joyful Land.

This Stained Dawn (2021).

Among the feature-length documentaries is Teboho Edkins’s Days of Cannibalism, a chronicle of China’s economic presence in and influence over Africa.

Israeli director Avi Mograbi’s The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation uses the testimonies of Israeli soldiers to analyse Israeli control of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mograbi will discuss the documentary with Tibetan writer Tendor Dorjee.

The First 54 Years: An Abbreviated Manual for Military Occupation (2021).

Zhu Rikun’s No Desire to Hide is a documentary about the complicated and politically charged relationship between the Chinese filmmaker and his girlfriend.

Inside the Red Brick Wall, made by the anonymous collective Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers, provides an intimate view of the pro-democracy protests at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2019.

Inside the Red Brick Wall (2021).

There will also be sidebar sessions on writing, production, financing, music, colour grading and subtitling. As a teaser for the event, celebrated actor Manoj Bajpayee will be in conversation with journalist Namrata Joshi on November 2.

Also read:

In ‘Shoebox’, the city that was once known as Allahabad

In ‘Uljhan’, disquiet and tension spill out as a social bubble bursts

In ‘Laila Aur Satt Geet’, a woman’s wandering heart serves as an allegory of Kashmir