Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) announced the lineup of official selections for the 21st annual edition of the internationally acclaimed film festival. IFFLA will showcase 24 films (6 narrative features, 2 documentary features, 16 shorts) from 13 countries and in 14 languages, including the world theatrical premiere of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Khufiya, the world premiere of Atul Sabharwal’s Berlin, and the North American premieres of Varun Grover’s dramedy All Indian Rank, Dominic Sangma’s Garo language film Rapture, and the Malayalam film Aattam (The Play) by Anand Ekarshi. Plus, the LA premiere of Joram by Devashish Makhija.
Passes and Gala tickets are now available at www.indianfilmfestival.org. Tickets to individual programs including the Masterclass with Vishal Bhardwaj go on sale on September 23, 2023.
IFFLA’s Opening Gala selection, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Khufiya, is based on the novel Escape to Nowhere written by a former Chief of Counter Espionage agent, Amar Bhushan. This riveting espionage thriller follows operative Krishna Mehra (Tabu) whose dangerous mission leaves her juggling between her dual identity as a spy and a lover. The film stars Tabu (Drishyam 2, Andhadhun), Ali Fazal (Mirzapur, Victoria & Abdul), Wamiqa Gabbi (Jubilee, Eclipse), and Azmeri Haque Badhon (Rehana).
The Closing Gala selection will be the North American premiere of All India Rank by writer, filmmaker, comedian, and lyricist Varun Grover, that premiered at the 2023 Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR). This charming coming-of-age dramedy, brimming with ‘90s pop culture paraphernalia, follows a turbulent year in the life of fresh-faced Vivek as he preps for India’s toughest undergrad exam at a coaching center far away from home. Grover will be in attendance opening the evening with an exclusive stand-up performance.
During the festival, renowned Indian film director, screenwriter, music composer, and producer Vishal Bhardwaj, will host an exclusive masterclass, where Bhardwaj will dive into his filmmaking journey and multi-faceted creative process across disciplines. Known best for his canny adaptations of Shakespeare to the Indian reality with Maqbool (2003), Omkara (2006), and Haider (2014), and having recently adapted Agatha Christie in Charlie Chopra (2023), Bhardwaj will also discuss his book to screen transitions. Lauded also for his priceless contributions to music for films, with hits like “Sapne Mein Milti Hai” (Satya) and “Beedi” (Omkara), Bhardwaj will delve into the impact music has on films.
“We are thrilled to enter IFFLA’s third decade offering a unique and much needed platform for emerging South Asian storytellers, and bringing a highly curated program to Los Angeles audiences,” said IFFLA Executive Director Christina Marouda. “Los Angeles has become home to countless artists with roots across South Asia and its diasporas. IFFLA has long been a vital touchstone for filmmakers due to both the platform it provides for their work to be seen in the heart of the American film industry as well as the support and networking it has offered the directors, actors, and other film artists who have been a part of the IFFLA ‘family.’”
Six feature films will have major premiere screenings at IFFLA. Atul Sabharwal, who is an IFFLA alum, will debut his world premiere of Berlin, a spy thriller mystery set in the early ‘90s in Delhi starring Rahul Bose, Aparshakti Khurana, and Ishwak Singh. The two films making their North American premieres at IFFLA are the dark supernatural tale Rapture by Dominic Sangma, a Locarno premiered Garo language film set in a remote Meghalayan community where a Christian pastor desperately struggles to maintain his grip over his congregation; and Aattam (The Play) by Anand Ekarshi, a scathing Malayalam chamber drama starring Vinay Forrt, about the havoc that ensues amidst a twelve-man theater troupe when their sole female member is groped by one of her colleagues.
Making its LA premiere, action-packed Joram by IFFLA alum Devashish Makhija (Ajji) boasts a cast of A-listers that includes Manoj Bajpayee in the leading role, as well as Tannishtha Chatterjee, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, and Smita Tambe. This adventure thriller follows a young couple who has fled their tribal battleground for a peaceful life in Mumbai, when a ruthless shadow from their past shows up at their slum and sends them clinging for dear life.
IFFLA will host the US premieres of two documentary features: The World is Family by legendary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan (Reason, War and Peace), his most personal film to date, that pays tribute to his parents whose lives were closely linked with India’s independence movement; and The Golden Thread by Nishtha Jain, a lyrical homage to one of the last remaining jute mills in West Bengal, once home to the world’s largest jute industry, now ravaged by mechanization.
IFFLA’s Co-Director of Programming Thouly Dosios said, “We’re profoundly inspired to have such a wide range of generations of South Asian storytellers join together in conversation under one roof over these five extraordinary days. From maestros whose oeuvre continues to expand in dynamic ways, to singular emerging voices who make leaps with their second films or feature debuts, to absolute newcomers whose striking entryways into the cinematic form have us longing for more.”
Co-Director of Programming Ritesh Mehta added, “We remain deeply committed to championing women directors, the forces behind 50% of our shorts program. Additionally, we are enthralled by how well the shorts represent the rich diversity of diasporic stories, from immigrant to second generation and mixed race experiences, from America to New Zealand, and beyond.”
Of the 16 short films presented in IFFLA’s main competition lineup half of them are US productions, with seven countries and 13 languages represented. This section boasts three world premieres including IFFLA alum Sushma Khadepaun’s Places I’ve Called My Own, starring Aditi Vasudev, about an Indian woman returning from the US and navigating fragile threads of family and unrequited queer love; Jhanvi Motla’s Mirage; and Aleem Hossain’s On the Blue Table.
Other highlights include Vibirson Gnanatheepan’s Anushan from France, about a teenager reconciling with his Tamil identity when an uncle arrives from Sri Lanka with wounds of war; the award-winning Bangladeshi documentary, Fantasy in a Concrete Jungle by Mehedi Mostafa; the DGA student winner Men in Blue, by Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda; Reema Maya’s Sundance premiered Nocturnal Burger; and Running, a playful hybrid documentary written and performed by Danny Pudi and directed by Arpita Mukherjee, that follows Pudi as he sets out to uncover the story of his late estranged father.
Seven features and 16 shorts will compete for the Grand Jury Prize Awards, which will be announced by the Jury members during the Awards Ceremony at the Closing Night Gala, along with the Audience Choice Awards.
The Jury members for the Feature Film Competition are:
- Karan Soni (Actor, Deadpool, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, Miracle Workers)
- Bilal Qureshi (Journalist and Film Critic, NPR and Washington Post)
- Utkarshini Vashishtha (Screenwriter, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Sarbjt; Associate Director, India’s Got Talent)
The Jury members for the Best Short Film Competition are:
- Priya Arora (Journalist, The New York Times, HuffPost; Podcaster, Queering Desi)
- Geeta Malik (Writer and Director, India Sweets and Spices, Abbott Elementary)
- Katie Walsh (Film Critic, Los Angeles Times)
Opening and Closing Night Galas will take place at Harmony Gold (7655 Sunset Blvd.) and all other screenings and the masterclass will be at the Regal LA Live (1000 W. Olympic Blvd.).
IFFLA is supported by the LA County Department of Arts and Culture as part of Creative Recovery LA, an initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan. The festival is also funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs.