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As the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) celebrates its 11th anniversary, its impressive film lineup will spotlight not only emergent Indian filmmakers and their films but also evoke nostalgia by joining the global celebration of Indian cinema’s 100th anniversary. To commemorate India’s film history, three film screenings under the banner Bollywood by Night, will pay tribute to Yash Chopra, one of Bollywood’s most influential filmmakers over the last five decades.
Christina Marouda, IFFLA founder and chair of the board calls this year’s works “path-breaking” as most are making waves at top-tier film festivals around the world. The films range from “Bollywood flair to thought-provoking documentaries” and should not be missed by audiences who are eager to view films which are “very hard to find outside the film festival circuit” adds Marouda.
IFFLA’s six-day festival will begin with a star studded, red carpet gala, a favored stomping ground for Hollywood and Indian celebrities. Past attendees include producers Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino, actors Vanessa Redgrave, Hannah Simone, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Kunal Nayyar, Parvesh Cheena, Shah Rukh Khan, and directors Shekhar Kapur and Mira Nair just to name a few.
The festival’s selection committee, led by lead programmer Terrie Samundra diligently considered hundreds of film submissions. About 25 works, often made on a shoe-string budget by Indian filmmakers will be presented to not only a large general audience but also to prominent Hollywood power brokers who sit on juries.
The packed agenda consists of two shorts programs inclusive of short narratives, documentaries, and animated films all ranging from three to twenty minutes. Four to five documentary features will be screened along with ten narrative feature films which represent “a great cross-section of Indian Indie films” per Samundra.
Producer and director Anurag Kashyap’s epic crime thriller Gangs of Wasseypur will open the festival. Gangs will be screened in two parts due to its unusual combined running time of five hours.
Set during the tumultuous era of Indian independence and industrialization, Part I chronicle’s the violent and bloody grip of India’s criminal underworld led by the Khan gang in the coal mining territories of the North. The lawlessness and gritty appetite for power and sex of the Khan clan continue to contemporary times in Part II which will be shown on the following evening.
Accompanying Kashyap to celebrate the Los Angeles premiere of Gangs will be co-producer Guneet Monga. Monga is one of several women in the entertainment industry who will be spotlighted at the festival due to her contributions to the film industry and her ability to bridge the global gap between foreign, industry powerbrokers.
Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel, Midnight’s Children, will be featured as the closing night film. An ambitious venture mixed with magical realism in a post colonial setting through the creative visualization of Oscar nominated director Deepa Mehta, the epic tale follows the lives of two babies born and switched at the moment of India’s independence from Great Britain.
Other premiers include a special screening of Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a political thriller based on the New York Times bestseller and Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely a dark look at the seedy underbelly of Bollywood C-movies and soft-porn during the 1980’s.
Vasan Bala’s makes his directorial debut in Peddlers with a crime thriller following the desperation of young drug runners who are merely looking to survive; Shahid is based on the true story of Shahid Azmi, a human rights activist murdered in India in 2010 and is directed by Hansal Mehta and produced by Guneet Monga and Anurag Kashyap.
Another recommendation is the Sundance and Berlin festival favorite Salma, a documentary directed by Kim Longinotto, about a South Indian woman’s courageous journey in the face of mass oppression.
Other events at the festival include IFFLA’s Rhythm Village, which will be back to create a folksy atmosphere through its world-renowned artists, Q&A panels composed of industry leaders, a family day with family friendly activities as well as the grand jury and audience awards presentation to industry executives and filmmakers.
April 9-14. 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Venues: Arc Light Cinema Hollywood, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles; House of Blues, 8430 West Sunset Boulevard West Hollywood. Tickets: passes ranging from $100 to $1000. http://www.indianfilmfestival.org/festpass.php. www.indianfilmfestival.org.