Director Alankrita Shrivastava won the Spirit of Asia award at the Tokyo International Film Festival with this ambitious narrative set in Bhopal. Rehana is the titular burkha wearer who sings at open mics in defiance of her father’s warnings; Shirin is a superstar saleswoman, but must keep this triumph a secret from her faithless husband; Leela is trying to juggle a Muslim lover, a Hindu fiancé and her dream career as a bridal consultant; and Auntie Usha secretly reads racy novels and lusts after her swimming instructor. Two of the women are Hindu, two are Muslim, but all their stories come together when they attempt to challenge the sexual and social norms of Indian patriarchy.
An all-star cast brings these characters to life, including Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah, and Vikrant Massey. Shrivastava’s forthright depictions of sexuality have raised questions whether LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA will be released uncensored in India. Be sure to catch this inspiring dramedy in its original edit at IFFLA while you can.
Q&A to follow with director Alankrita Shrivastav
In the bowels of a textile mill in Surat, Gujarat, machines churn out reams of fabric, powered not only by electricity but the toil of human labor. In his debut feature, Rahul Jain gains almost unlimited access to the dehumanizing world of textile production that recalls another era but is happening today. We meet some of the mill’s many workers who are keenly aware of their exploitation, working gruelling daily shifts for minimal wages that barely cover their own basic living expenses, to say nothing of supporting their distant families. Still the work continues, never ending.
Premiering at the prestigious IDFA festival in Amsterdam and in competition at Sundance, MACHINES depicts the claustrophobic and overwhelming sensory experience of being in the mills while remaining close to the human cost of material production. Eschewing the traditional documentary techniques of titles, talking head expert interviews or even extended dialogue, we experience the world of the textile mill in a way only possible through film. With intelligence and emotion, MACHINES is a cinematic experience unlike any other.
Q&A to follow with director Rahul Jain
IFFLA is honored to welcome legendary tabla maestro Zakir Hussain to the festival, joined by Zane Dalal, the Associate Music Director of the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI). The two distinguished gentlemen will present a screening of the documentary AN INDIAN ACCENT, directed by Sumantra Ghosal, which chronicles their collaboration within the SOI on Hussain’s composition Peshkar, a brilliant orchestra concerto lead by Hussain on his signature instrument, the tabla. The concerto was specially commissioned by the National Center of the Performing Arts, Mumbai in advance of the SOI’s tour to Switzerland in January 2016.
Following the film, a discussion with Zakir Hussain and Zane Dalal will recount their work on Peshkar, their time with the SOI and their long and storied careers. This will be an intimate and unforgettable evening, and a rare chance to see true musical genius speak in person about the art of their craft. This is an event not to be missed!
Moderated by Dr. Vinod Venkataraman, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Artistic Director at The Music Circle, Los Angeles
Dileep gives a staggering performance as an earnest family man who can’t catch a break. But when a stroke of good luck reveals a hidden side to his personality, it’s the people who love him who have to face the consequences.
Veteran Malayalam filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan made a welcome return to the festival circuit at the Toronto International Film Festival last year with his new gripping drama ONCE AGAIN.
In the first half of the film, Dileep plays Purushothaman, an earnest and humble man who has been unable to find a job for the past eight years. His wife, Devi, is a teacher, and she and her family have supported him all this time. Though the family members recognize Purushothaman’s diligent attempts to find work, they seem to also resent his bad luck. But everything changes when a well-paying job in Dubai suddenly comes through that changes the family’s fortunes.
However, when Purushothaman returns, his plan to permanently provide for his family transforms Gopalakrishnan’s naturalistic drama into an unpredictable film noir. The head-spinning mid-film tonal change exemplifies the best of Eastern cinematic storytelling, a kind of narrative boldness rarely scene in mainstream Western films. Thanks to Dileep’s staggering performance as a mild-mannered man with uncharted depths, IFFLA audiences won’t be able to predict the twists and turns in store in ONCE AGAIN.
Q&A to follow with director Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Shaurya is in urgent need of a new apartment. He’s just made an impulsive marriage proposal, the clock is ticking and the tiny flat he shares with half a dozen layabouts is not suitable for his hopeful bride-to-be. When he’s offered an affordable place in an otherwise abandoned Mumbai high-rise, he jumps at the chance, never mind the spotty access to running water and electricity. But on his first morning, he manages to lock himself inside due to a faulty door and misplaced keys. With the power out, the faucets running dry and no one around to hear Saurya’s screams for help, what at first seems like a minor setback quickly escalates into a desperate fight for survival.
IFFLA alum Vikramaditya Motwane’s third feature film is both a virtuosic thriller and a dazzling showcase for star Rajkummar Rao’s ferociously committed performance. Armed with a consistently clever screenplay by Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta, Motwane uses his limited space to create a set that’s both a nightmarish prison for Shaurya and the potential key to his escape – if only he can figure out a plan in time. Essentially a one-man survival show with humor and heart to spare, the film could not work without Rao’s willingness to push himself to physical and behavioral extremes. The results are captivating.
Devi (Goddess), Sweetheart, The Kill, Spice Sisters, Gudh (Nest)
For decades, traveling tent cinemas have been bringing films to rural audiences across India. However with the explosion of digital technology and individual screens of all kinds, these communal social events are near extinction. In Maharashtra, two exhibitors, one relatively new to the business and the other a veteran, worry what will become of their occupation. Meanwhile, Prakash, a repairman of the projectors that generations of filmgoers have relied on, is close to realizing his dream invention of a reliable, self-oiling film projector, but who will want it?
In their debut feature, directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya chronicle not just the inevitable end of traditional film exhibition, but also provide an elegy for an era. This moving documentary will speak to anyone who has spent time in a darkened space to be transported elsewhere. Beautifully shot and edited in a poetic and realistic style, and recognized with a Special Mention of the Golden Eye documentary award at Cannes, THE CINEMA TRAVELLERS is an unforgettable documentary about the universal magic of film going.
Q&A to follow with directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya
Set in the lush coastal regions of Karnataka, first-time director Ananya Kasaravalli’s CHRONICLES OF HARI delves into the unique, ornate world of traditional Yakshagana theater and finds within it a sensitive, compassionate portrayal of a man troubled by questions of tradition and identity. In this story co-written with Ananya’s father, parallel cinema pioneer Girish Kasaravalli, Hari, a renowned actor who performs the female roles in his all-male acting troupe, finds himself holding on to certain female-associated traits once his lavish costumes and makeup are removed. He prefers to wear a sari, his delicate features are a stark contrast from the other men in the village, and when potential female companions approach he’s at a loss how to behave.
Kasaravalli and her lead actor, a magnetic Shrunga Vasudevan, tenderly examine both Hari’s desire to accept himself and to gain acceptance from his friends, family and neighbors. In a place ill-equipped to deal with any deviation from the status quo, Hari’s struggle becomes both an internal battle against his natural instincts and a fight for survival in an increasingly dangerous environment.
Building on last year’s successful and well-attended event, we will be taking the opportunity of having so many directors of independent Indian cinema in Los Angeles at the same time to host a discussion about the current state of the industry. Moderated again by John Nein, Senior Programmer at the Sundance Film Festival, these directors will discuss current trends they see in independent Indian cinema, the unique opportunities and difficulties they have producing projects in India, their vision and hopes for the future for the filmmaking community, and much more. Join us for a one-of-its-kind public conversation with some of the leading filmmakers of India today!
Moderated by: John Nein, Senior Programmer, Sundance Film Festival
John Nein is a senior programmer at the Sundance Film Festival, where he has worked since 2001, dealing extensively with narrative films, the international program and the festival’s panels and conversations. He curates the Institute’s film preservation initiative, the Sundance Collection at UCLA. Outside of Sundance, he is the curator of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles’ Lost & Found at the Movies cinema culture series.
Miles of Sand, Aaba (Grandfather), Infiltrator, City of Love, Disco Obu