10 Films you cannot miss at the Dharamshala International Film Festival

Dharamshala2019filmsWe present a list of ten films you shouldn’t miss at the Dharamshala International Film Festival which will take place from November 7th – 10th (2019) in Dharamshala, India.

About the festival:
The Dharamshala International Film Festival started in 2012 by filmmakers and Dharamshala residents, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. It is held annually in McLeod Ganj, a town with no cinemas that is best known as the exile home of the Dalai Lama. Focusing on showcasing the best of independent films from India and around the world, the festival has gained a reputation for its eclectic and adventurous programming, its beautiful mountain setting, and its intimate and cinema-literate atmosphere. DIFF attracts the finest indie filmmakers, film critics and film lovers from across the country and from abroad.


About Love

About Love by Archana Atul Phadke – India | 2019 – 91 minutes

About Love paints an intimate portrait of marriage and companionship in a large, middle-class Indian family. Three generations of the Phadkes live together in their ancestral home in downtown Mumbai. Director Archana Tul Phadke’s grandfather, Madhav, is 87, diabetic, partially deaf, and infirm. Grandmother Neela spends her days tending to his needs, complaining that she was fooled into believing he was a good man when they married. Archana’s boisterous father, Atul, runs the family jewellery business. His wife, homemaker Maneesha, is highly educated but harbours unspoken regrets. In an unexpected twist, she reveals to the camera a secret world she has been building over the years. Meanwhile, Archana’s younger brother, corporate employee Rohan, is slightly distant from family life, as he and fiancée Gurbani spend their time together planning their wedding. Underscored by Archana’s own misgivings towards marriage, the film—both cruel and comic at times—vignettes the vagaries of affection across generations

November 10th (Sunday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 4:30 pm




Aise Hee

Aise Hee by Kislay – India | 2019 – 113 minutes

74-year-old Mrs Sharma is the ‘exemplary’ wife of a locally respected government employee, and lives in a modest house in small-town Allahabad. When her husband dies, Mrs Sharma is expected to move downstairs to live with her son Virendra and family. But Mrs Sharma has plans of her own. She refuses to shift rooms, stops going to the temple, opens her own bank account, befriends a beauty parlour girl, visits a Muslim tailor to learn embroidery and is seen visiting down-at-heel cinemas. To cap it all, Mrs Sharma’s neighbours spot her in the shopping mall, all by herself, eating ice-cream! Having failed to bring her to her senses, the entire local community, including her own children and grandchildren, turn against Mrs Sharma. She is accused of selfishness and maybe even being possessed by an evil eye. But why are people so concerned? Why are they so afraid? Why are they so angry?

November 9th (Saturday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 6:15 pm



Bombay Rose

Bombay Rose by Gitanjali Rao – India, UK, France, Qatar | 2019 – 93 minutes

Six years in the making, animated love story Bombay Rose depicts the intimate yet collective struggles of those who migrate from small towns to seek a modest life in the maximum city. Hindu club dancer Kamala has fled to Mumbai to escape an arranged marriage, with her ailing father and bright younger sister in tow. Eking out an existence in the city’s slums, at the mercy of her pimp, she encounters Samil, a young Kashmiri man whose parents were executed back home, and who now lives a tenuous life on the streets. A rose connects Kamala to Samil and a third narrative skein—the love of Bollywood film. Hand-painted frame by frame, urban reality is depicted in documentary style, whilst intricate dream worlds are inspired by the rich and varied folk art styles of India.

November 10th (Sunday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 5:30 pm




Eeb Allay Ooo

Eeb Allay ooo! by Prateek Vats – India | 2019 – 98 minutes

This satire from director Prateek Vats revolves around Anjani—a migrant to New Delhi who secures government employment in the city’s high-security zone. Although he shares his workspace with the most important ministers of state, the reality of Anjani’s job is to mimic aggressive langurs to scare away macaques from government office complexes and the residences of MPs and judges. The actual langurs, originally and extremely effectively employed for the task, have, it seems, recently been retired on account of animal rights concerns and, whilst Anjani’s official designation is ‘monkey repeller’, his true role is more akin to ‘human langur’. In quick succession, Anjani finds his dignity and courage cut to shreds, whilst his professional ineptitude augurs a speedy discharge. But, when admonished by his pregnant sister, our hero grits his teeth and decides to counter literal monkey business with monkey business of his own…

November 7th (Thursday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 5:30 pm



For Sama

For Sama by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts – UK | 2019 – 95 minutes

This intimate documentary takes the form of a message from 26-year-old Syrian mother, Waad al-Kateab, to her daughter, Sama—recorded in the last days of the battle for Aleppo. The story begins in 2012, with Waad studying marketing at Aleppo university, where she joins protests against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. During these early, optimistic days, she falls in love with a young medic named Hamza. But as the city is engulfed in full-blown war, the couple lose many friends and narrowly escape death at the hand of snipers, airstrikes and barrel bombs. Waad and Hamza marry, and their honeymoon plays out against an increasingly apocalyptic landscape. In 2015, Russia intervenes, unleashing ferocious violence against the rebels. Despite their fears, Waad and Hamza decide not to flee, realising the struggle is no longer only for themselves but for the future of their daughter, who is born in 2016—a small ray of hope in the chaos.

November 8th (Friday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 1:00 pm





Jallikatuu by Lijo Jose Pellissery – India | 2019 – 95 minutes

Adapted from a short story by S Hareesh, the brawling, allegorical Jallikattu is set in a remote village in the Keralan hills. The violent action begins when an escaped buffalo runs amok—destroying flagpoles, upturning food carts, trampling a cardamom plantation, and causing numerous injuries and at least one death. But not only the beast is unleashed. Its escape gives licence to an ecstatic frenzy of aggression, as men from the village and surrounding area join to hunt it down. Soon, boundaries between the human and the animalistic vanish, exposing dark layers of the collective unconscious—ferocity, greed, lust, distrust and vengeance.

November 8th (Friday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 5:30 pm




Last Night

Last Night I saw you smiling by Kavich Neang – Cambodia | 2019 – 77 minutes

A decade after Cambodia achieved independence in 1953, the White Building was constructed in capital Phnom Penh. The housing block subsequently bore witness to the young nation’s Golden Age, a traumatic breakdown under the Khmer Rouge, decades of cultural revival, and rapid capitalist development. When director Kavich Neang, one of the White Building’s lifelong residents, learns that its 493 families have agreed to vacate the premises for a condo development, he decides to document its history and demise. Kavich’s sculptor father, together with his mother, was originally settled there by the government, after the fall of Pol Pot’s regime in 1979. They express satisfaction with the compensation they’re now receiving but cannot contain their emotions under the pressure of moving out. Kavich also records the memories of his neighbours, who share stories of love and tragedy, treasured movies from the past, and their dreams and aspirations.

November 9th (Saturday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 3:15 pm




Pariah Dog

Pariah Dog by Jesse Alk – USA | 2019 – 77 minutes

Shot in Kolkata over three years, Pariah Dog paints a lyrical, kaleidoscopic portrait of the city, seen through the loving eyes of four eccentric street dog caretakers. Street dogs have existed in India for thousands of years. Recognisable by their orange fur, tightly curled tails and erect ears, they share a common ancestor with the Australian dingo. Although protected under Indian law, some groups want to see them cleared from the streets and, in recent years, a shocking series of animal cruelty cases involving strays has been reported across social media. Although each of Pariah Dog’s protagonists lacks something in life—recognition, fulfilment or close human relations—in caring for the strays, they find meaning and purpose. For some it is enough, for others, dreams of a better existence are never far away.

November 10th (Sunday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 10:30 am





Screwdriver by Bassam Jarbawi – Palestine, USA, Qatar | 2018 – 108 minutes

This slick drama explores the emotional toll felt by a Palestinian prisoner after 15 years in an Israeli jail. In 1992, eight-year-old Ziad and Ramzi find themselves in the al-Am’ari Refugee Camp, exploring its tight collection of cement cubicles, angles, colours, smells and sounds. While playing around one day, Ziad accidentally cuts Ramzi. In return, Ramzi stabs Ziad with a screwdriver. Instantly, they become best friends. By 2002, the boys—now teenagers—are stars of al-Am’ari’s basketball team. But, when Ramzi is shot dead in a crossfire and the team seeks revenge, Ziad is captured by Israeli forces, imprisoned and tortured. Upon his release, Ziad is paraded as a hero but feels like a fraud. Soon, the demands of modern Palestinian life and love become unbearable and he retreats into silence and hallucination. Enter Mina, a Palestinian-American filmmaker, whose interviews with Ziad help him progress from nightmares of the past to dreams of the future.

November 8th (Friday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 7:00 pm




Tehran City of Love

Tehran: City of Love by Ali Jaberansari – Iran, UK, The Netherlands | 2018 – 102 minutes

This bittersweet comedy concerns three disenchanted, middle-aged residents of the Iranian capital. Mina is a receptionist at an upmarket beauty clinic. Unhappy with her weight but addicted to ice-cream, she catfishes the men she encounters at work. Hessam, a retired bodybuilder who trains affluent older men, is cast in a film with real-life French actor Louis Garrel—of whom neither he nor anyone around him has ever heard, despite the producer’s assurances of the thespian’s fame. Meanwhile Vahid, a singer at religious ceremonies and an expert mourner, is convinced by his friends to perform at weddings instead, after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Playing on the trope of unrequited love—a consistent subject of traditional Persian storytelling—the film is a playfully observed triptych of individuals in search of romance, that reflects on the fleeting nature of happiness.

November 10th (Sunday) | Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts | 1:00 pm


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