The Dharamshala International Film Festival (3-6 November) comes quick on the heels of the Mumbai Film Festival (20-27 October). Nestled in the Kangra valley and surrounded by deodar trees, the venue of the festival is an ideal getaway to catch up on arthouse films and documentaries in a scenic location.
In its fifth edition, the estimable festival founded by filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam will open with Raam Reddy’s satire Thithi (2016) and close with Vetrimaaran’s crime thriller Visaranai (2015). Festival programmer Raman Chawla joins Sarin and Sonam in curating the selection. Director Umesh Kulkarni is handling the short films section, while Monica Wahi will be introducing children’s films from this year.
This year’s programme includes 43 films, comprising 27 feature films (18 narratives and nine documentaries), 15 short films, and one docu-fiction.
Apart from films, the festival line-up includes video installations, masterclasses, workshops and community events. Filmmakers Saeed Mirza and actor Naseeruddin Shah will be attending the festival to participate in conversations.
Here is a list of the noteworthy films.
A Syrian Love Story Sean McAllister’s documentary was filmed over five years and is the chronicle of the relationship between Amer and Raghda, who met in a Syrian prison cell 15 years ago. Set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring revolution of 2011, the film charts their journey through a politically charged climate. McAllister received the grand jury prize at the Sheffield Documentary Festival in 206. His film was described as a “Bergmanesque portrait of a relationship and love”.
The Island Funeral Directed by Pimpaka Towira, the film follows Laila on a road trip from Bangkok to Pattani to visit her aunt. Her brother Zugood and his friend Toy accompany her. As they get closer to Pattani, the military presence in the area makes them feel unsafe, and they are faced with the reality of a strange place that they were once familiar with.
Kammatipaadam Ace cinematographer and filmmaker Rajeev Ravi directs the Malayalam crime drama starring Dulquer Salman. Kammatipaadam focuses on how the Dalit community was coerced into giving up its land to the real estate mafia in Kochi, leading to the transformation of the city into a commercial powerhouse.
A Korean In Paris Jeon Soo-il’s film traces the quest of a man who searches for his wife who goes missing during their honeymoon in Paris.
Didi Contractor: Marrying the Earth to the Building Steffi Giaracuni’s documentary looks at the work of American-born architect Didi Contractor, who has been living in the Kangra valley for over two decades. Contractor has been combining rural and modern styles to create houses that can be part of the ecosystem. DIFF will host the world premiere of the film.
The Shepherdess of the Glaciers Somewhere in the Gya-Miru Valley of Ladakh at 16,500 feet above sea level lives a shepherdess with a flock of 250 sheep and pashmina goats. Her only link with the outside world is a transistor radio. Stanzin Dorjai Gya and Christiane Mordelet direct the documentary.
Brothers The documentary by Wojciech Staroń looks at the story of two Polish siblings who return to their homeland 70 years after being deported to Siberia. Mixing archival footage with his own story, Staroń paints a portrait of their troubled lives.
The Wounded Angel Emir Baigazin’s film is set in Kazakhstan in the mid-1990s. It follows the lives of four teenagers who are trying to shape their destinies amidst economical crisis. The Wounded Angel was shown in the Panorama section at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival in 2-16.
Sonita An undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant who is living in the poor suburbs of Tehran is the subject of Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s documentary. Sonita’s family plans to sell her as a bride to a new family. Her going rate: $9,000.
Apprentice Boo Junfeng’s film examines the relationship of Malay correctional officer Aiman and Rahim, the chief executioner of the prison. Caught between their friendship is Suhaila, Aiman’s older sister, who warns him that Rahim had executed their father.
Royal Café Billed as the festival’s only “medium docu-fiction”, the film explores the story of Dazel, a Swiss-born Tibetan woman living in Paris. Dazel wants to be a filmmaker, and finds inspiration at a café where Tibetan cuisine is served.
Miss Bulalacao In this Filipino comedy film by Ara Chawdhury, drag queen Dodong participates in a gay pageant, but is chased out by his father. Dodong hides in the forest and prays upon a bright star. Soon, he finds himself pregnant.
Kopek Esen Isik’s debut feature captures a day in the lives of three people looking for love in Istanbul.
Heart of a Dog The acclaimed documentary by Laurie Anderson is a personal essay that weaves together childhood memories, video diaries, philosophical musings on data collection, surveillance culture and the Buddhist conception of the afterlife.
The Last Dalai Lama? Mickey Lemle’s documentary braids together archival imagery, historic interviews, footage from his 1991 film Compassion in Exile, and interviews with the Dalai Lama in his quest to answer the question put forward through the film’s title: Will he be the last?
Lathe Joshi Mangesh Joshi’s Marathi movie tells the story of an skilled industrial worker whose job as a lathe machine operator is replaced by automation.
Ten Years This anthology of five short stories set in Hong Kong was declared the Best Film at the 2016 Hong Kong Film Awards. The five shorts are directed by Kwok Zune, Wong Fei-Pang, Jevons Au and Chow Kwun-Wai.
What’s In The Darkness In Wang Yichun’s debut film, the coming-of-age and serial killer genres are combined to travel back in time to a Chinese town in 1991. Incidents of murder and sexual awakening shake the conservative people of the small town.
Mane De Phere Sanjeev Kumar’s film tells the story of a man dealing with a mental disorder. His wife struggles to fight the battle with him.
Of the ten short films being shown, Daavartha, directed by Nishant Roy Bombarde, won this year’s National Film award for Best First Non-Feature. It is the story of a young boy’s sexual awakening in a small town in Maharashtra. Chaitanya Tamhane’s atmospheric film Six Strands is also being screened. Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Kush, Gurvinder Singh’s Infiltrator and Prabhjit Dhamija’s Asmad are some of the films to watch in this section.
At Eye Level, directed by Evi Goldbrunner and Joachim Dollhopf, and We Make Images, by Nina Sabnani, are the two short films in the children’s films section.