IFFLA introduces new Spotlight on South Asia Opening with Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s strong Bangladeshi standout REHANA

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The 2022 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) announced the lineup of official selections for the 20th annual edition of the internationally acclaimed film festival, which will mark a return to in-person screenings and events this year. Including a Gala presentation of Pan Nalin’s Last Film Show, IFFLA will showcase 26 films (10 features, 16 shorts), including the world premiere of Anmol Sidhu’s Jaggi, and the North American premieres of Faraz Ali’s Shoebox and Natesh Hegde’s Pedro.

The landmark 20th Anniversary edition of IFFLA will Inaugurate a Spotlight on South Asia section Feature a 20th Anniversary Shorts special program celebrating the festival’s history, with a pre-festival screening of IFFLA alumni shorts highlighting films representing each year of the festival’s history with an in-theater co-presentation with New Filmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) Present a live script read previewing an IFFLA alumnus’ next feature project, and include the announcement of a filmmaker mentorship initiative to further support emerging South Asian filmmakers

Screenings will take place at the Regal LA Live (1000 W. Olympic Blvd.), Harmony Gold (7655 Sunset Blvd.), and UCLA’s James Bridges Theater (235 Charles E Young Dr. E).

IFFLA Executive Director Christina Marouda, said“Reflecting on IFFLA’s 20 years, we find ourselves overjoyed by the range of incredible talent we have discovered and celebrated, introducing numerous emerging and established voices to Los Angeles. We are also incredibly proud of the sense of family and community we have accomplished over the last 20 years. We are now ramping up our efforts to support the careers of filmmakers by adding to the programs IFFLA has become known for over the past two decades, not just as a touchstone for our filmmakers, but also as a bridge to their next films.”

IFFLA’s Gala selection, Pan Nalin’s Last Film Show is the filmmaker’s celebration of the love of cinema through the story of a boy who stumbles upon a rundown movie theater and then charms his way into a daily seat in the projection room. However, when the theater upgrades from film to digital, his new wondrous world may be lost unless he and his friends can create their own “theater.” The crowd-pleasing Last Film Show by IFFLA’s beloved alum Pan Nalin, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and has traveled to film festivals across the world. A second Gala presentation will be announced at a later date.

Three feature film directorial debuts will have major premiere screenings at IFFLA. Making its world premiere, Anmol Sidhu’s Jaggi follows a schoolboy in rural Punjab who faces toxic masculinity and sexual abuse when he’s assumed to be gay. Making its North American premiere is Faraz Ali’s Shoebox. The film tells a coming-of-age story, which centers on a young woman who watches her father struggle to keep the family’s single screen movie theater operating while everything changes around them. Also making its North American premiere is Natesh Hegde’s Pedro. The film focuses on a taciturn electrician who becomes a social outcast in his small Karnataka town after becoming involved in a drunken incident.

Regarding the inspiration for this year’s edition of IFFLA, Co-Director of Programming Thouly Dosios, said, “This year’s festival is about reclaiming the powerful act of physically gathering together in a dark room, and processing a flickering dream as a communal experience. At the same time, it is about mindful evolution; our post-pandemic world forces us to reassess how we connect with each other and share our stories. The limitations we’ve had to deal with have empowered us to forge ahead with an expanded mind and a wilder imagination.”

Co-Director of Programming Ritesh Mehta, added, “The last few years have seen a dynamite rise in South Asian voices getting global acclaim. This 20th year, we’re beyond thrilled to have corralled some of these groundbreaking visions, and in turn offer some inspiring discoveries back to the culture. Our work is a total privilege, and we can’t wait to screen it with our communities in LA and beyond.”

Additional highlights among the feature film lineup include Irfana Majumdar’s Shankar’s Fairies, a delicate tapestry of a tale set in 1960s Lucknow about the touching bond that develops between the young daughter of a police chief and the family’s head servant, through his fantastical stories. Aditya Sengupta’s sumptuous Bengali drama Once Upon a Time in Calcutta follows an aging actress in games of power with five different men through the dark secrets of a disintegrating city. Nithin Lukose’s critically acclaimed directorial debut, Paka (River of Blood), produced by Anurag Kashyap, is a revenge thriller that pits two rival families against each other over a Romeo and Juliet-type forbidden romance. Rahul Jain’s documentary Invisible Demons, which premiered in Cannes’ Cinema for the Climate section,explores the detrimental effects of India’s growing economy on the environment, in the sprawling city of Delhi. Jain takes the subject matter personally as he reflects on our collective responsibility regarding climate change and protecting our planet.

Of the 11 short films presented in IFFLA’s main competition lineup, 8 are helmed by women directors. This section boasts four world premieres sure to make waves, including Megha Ramaswamy’s provocative psychological horror Lalanna’s Song, co-produced by Guneet Monga; Ambiecka Pandit’s Under the Waters, a raw coming of age drama produced by Vikramaditya Motwane; the deadpan debut Adventures of Faisal Rehman by Mir Ijlal Shaani; and Varun Chopra’s politically charged documentary Holy Cowboys that infiltrates the terrifying world of youth proselytization and right-wing extremism. The section also includes Student Academy Award winner, Close Ties to Home Country by Akanksha Cruczynski.

Heading IFFLA’s new Spotlight on South Asia section, which will showcase some of the most groundbreaking new work coming out of the greater South Asian subcontinent and its diasporas, is Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s psychological thriller Rehana (Rehana Maryam Noor) about a professor and single mother, who puts her family and life on the line to bring justice to a male colleague accused of sexually assaulting a student. The film made history for being the first film from Bangladesh to compete at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard. The spotlight includes the shorts 1978 (Pakistan) by award-winning director Hamza Bangash, Salar Pashtoonyar’s 2021 Student Academy Award winner Bad Omen (Afghanistan/Canada), Sunil Pandey’s Rotterdam 2022 selection Baghthan (Nepal), Nuhash Humayun’s 2022 SXSW Midnight Shorts Grand Jury Prize winner Moshari (Bangladesh), and Seemab Gul’s Sandstorm (Pakistan), which premiered at the 2021 Biennale’s Orizzonti.

As part of IFFLA’s 20th Anniversary celebration, the festival will showcase a hybrid presentation of 20 short films representing its diverse programming over the past two decades. Highlights include Umesh Kulkarni’s absurdist tale The Fly (Makkhi), the Academy Award nominated The Little Terrorist by Ashvin Kumar, and acclaimed director Nagraj Manjule’s An Essay of the Rain. A selection of this lineup will be presented in the program IFFLA Celebrates 20 Years: Indian Cinema Shorts and will be screened in partnership with NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA) on Saturday, April 23 as a part of NFMLA’s annual InFocus: Asian Cinema Program. Following that special presentation, the films will be available to stream online during IFFLA’s dates.

The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 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 Hollywood, but also due to the support and networking it has offered the directors, actors, and other film artists who have been a part of the IFFLA “family.” The “filmmaker house” IFFLA traditionally puts together provides a home for those visiting Los Angeles for the film festival and has taken on a near-legendary status over the years. This year, IFFLA builds on its past success and provides even more on behalf of its filmmakers by adding a couple new initiatives to the mix.

The film festival will stage a live script reading with prominent local acting talent from the South Asian diaspora of the feature length screenplay, Alim Uncle, by IFFLA alum, Kahlil Maskati. Attached to direct the reading is IFFLA alum Fawzia Mirza (The Queen of My Dreams, 2013), and confirmed talent include Rizwan Manji and Kausar Mohammed. Looking ahead to the next evolution of the organization, IFFLA will announce the details and plans for a new mentorship initiative and filmmaker lab. The exciting new project is a natural for a film festival whose legacy has been to discover and nurture emerging talent of South Asian descent. Details will be announced during the film festival.

IFFLA receives support from NBC Universal, WarnerMedia, Hollywood Vaults, SAGindie and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Cultural support is provided by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.