Dharamshala gears for DIFF 2017; what to expect


    Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF), which will be held from 2nd to 5th November 2017, is an alternative, boutique independent film festival held annually in McLeod Ganj. The sixth edition of DIFF will build on the hallmarks that have given the festival its reputation as a cutting edge event – an intimate and carefully curated festival in the Himalayas showcasing an eclectic mix of the best of independent features, documentaries, shorts and animation films from India and around the world.

    DIFF 2017’s Opening Night

    The opening night film will be the critically praised Indian feature, Mukti Bhavan, directed by upcoming director Shubhashish Bhutiani. The film will be presented by film’s lead actor Adil Hussain. The actor won the National Film Award – Special Jury Award/Special Mention (Feature Film) at 64th National Film Awards for his performance in the film.

    Acclaimed actor Konkona Sen Sharma will present in-person her directorial debut A Death in the Gunj. India’s Oscar entry, Newton, directed by Amit Masurkar, along with Nepal’s Oscar entry, White Sun, directed by Deepak Rauniyar, are also a part of the festival line up. The festival will close with Village Rockstars, a film by Assamese filmmaker Rima Das that had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. The filmmaker will also be present for the screening.

    The list of international filmmakers attending DIFF this year includes:

    • Yoshinori Sato, who will present his feature Her Mother with support from the Japan Foundation
    • Yaniv Berman, who will present Land of the Little People with the support of the Israeli Embassy
    • Mano Khalil—a Swiss director of Kurdish-Syrian origin—who will present The Swallow, in collaboration with the Embassy of Switzerland in India

    DIFF 2017 also welcomes a select group of Indian filmmakers, including:

    • Sikkimese director Karma Takapa, whose film Ralang Road was in competition at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival this year
    • Popular Malayalam filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery, who will present his feature Angamaly Diaries
    • The Ektara Collective from Bhopal, who will share their debut feature Turup
    • Pushpendra Singh, who will present his feature Ashwathamma—which was included in the official selection at the Busan International Film Festival 2017

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    Other DIFF 2017 highlights include the Indian premiere of Out of This World — a newly restored version of journalist and writer Lowell Thomas’ fascinating account of his travels in Tibet in 1949. Presented by filmmaker David Wright, the screening will also be attended by Lowell Thomas’s grand daughter Anne Donaghy.

    Two award-winning documentaries also grace this year’s festival: Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson and Rahul Jain’s Machines. Cameraperson premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim, and won top prize at the Sheffield Doc/Fest. Machines also screened at Sundance, where it won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography. Other DIFF 2017 documentaries include: Polish Filmmaker Anna Zamecka’s multi- award winning documentary Communion and Pakistani director Arshad Khan’s Abu, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival. We are excited to present the South Asian premieres of three acclaimed experimental films: Amar Kanwar’s Such a Morning (India); Naeem Mohaiemen’s Tripoli Cancelled (Bangladesh)—both of which premiered this year at Documenta 14—and In Time to Come, directed by Singapore’s leading documentary filmmaker Tan Pin Pin.

    Other cutting-edge features this year include: Pakistani Norwegian filmmaker Iram Haq’s What Will People Say (Toronto International Film Festival 2017), Bornila Chatterjee’s modern adaptation of Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, titled The Hungry (Toronto International Film Festival 2017); Devashish Makhija’s Ajji (Busan International Film Festival 2017); Bhutanese filmmaker Dechen Roder’s Honeygiver Among the Dogs (Busan International Film Festival 2017) and the Malaysian-Indonesian fantasy thriller Interchange, directed by Dain Iskandar Said, which premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival and was the opening-night film at the Singapore International Film Festival.

    This year marks our third special children’s programe, curated by the director of the South Asia Children’s Cinema Forum, Monica Wahi. The selection includes an animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book Revolting Rhymes; Dutch children’s feature The Day My Father Became a Bush, directed by Nicole van Kilsdonk; and Suresh Eriyat’s animated short The Tokri. 2017 children’s programme also includes a partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland in India to mark the 70th anniversary of the Swiss-Indian Treaty of Friendship. This will feature a special open-air screening of the film Heidi, directed by Alain Gsponer, a screening of Claude Barras’ stop-motion comedy My Life as a Courgette, and children’s games and activities at the Swiss pop-up stall.

    DIFF 2017 sees our fifth selection of short films from India, curated once again by renowned Marathi filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni. These include: Taandav by Devashish Makhija; Afternoon Clouds by Payal Kapadia (the only Indian film to compete at Cannes 2017); Assamese film Days of Autumn by Mukul Halo; Amar Kaushik’s Aaba (the only Indian film to win an award at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival); Naughty Amelia Jane by Risheeta Agrawal; Memories of a Machine by Shailaja Padindala; Amateurs by Naveen Padmanabha; and animated short Fish Curry by Abhishek Varma.

    With such a stellar line-up of films and events, DIFF 2017 promises to provide another unique, captivating cinematic experience against the backdrop of the dramatic Dhauladhar range. DIFF is proud to host the fourth edition of the DIFF Film Fellows Programme—a mentorship initiative for aspiring filmmakers in the Indian Himalayan region. This year saw a large number of applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds. The jury comprised Bina Paul, Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala, feature filmmaker Shubhashish Bhutiani and Tibetan-American documentary filmmaker Tenzin Tsetan Choklay. The DIFF Film Fellows for 2017 are: Siddharth Chauhan from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh; Piyush Kanga from Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh; Sazzad Hussain from Guwahati, Assam; Jenifer Datta from Tura, Meghalaya; and Renuka Soraisam from Imphal, Manipur.

    The sixth edition of Dharamshala International Film Festival will be held in McLeod Ganj from November 2 to 5. Filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, who are long-term residents of Dharamshala, initiated the festival in 2012, with the aim of bringing high-quality independent cinema to the mountains, encouraging local filmmaking talent, and creating a meaningful platform to engage the area’s diverse communities. For more information, click here.

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