10 Films you shouldn’t miss at the Dharamshala International Film Festival

These are ten films you shouldn’t miss at the Dharamshala International Film Festival which will take place from November 3 – 6, 2022.

A New Old Play by Qiu Jiongjiong – Hong Kong, France | 2021 – 179 minutes

One evening in the 1980s, Qiu Fu, a leading clown-role actor in 20th-century Sichuan opera, departs this world and must reluctantly leave for the Ghost City under the escort of two underworld officials. Along the way, he meets old friends and as they recall the past, earthly scenes creep into the mists of the Netherworld. Qiu Fu’s life in opera unfolds against the backdrop of a secular upheaval. The ‘New-New’ Troupe in which he grows up and learns his trade is affiliated with the military. As power shifts, the troupe is cast loose to wander rootlessly through a broken world. Despite this unsettled destiny, shaped by war, famine and political turmoil, Qiu Fu becomes one of the finest clown-role performers in Sichuan opera. And yet, one day he finds himself clapped in a pigsty as a political revolution rages outside. Outside the Ghost City, sitting among familiar faces, Qiu Fu drinks the mandatory bowl of Forgetfulness Soup to erase his memory. A lifetime of hardship, pain and sorrow, all vanish as if they had never been. (DIFF 2022)


A Night of Knowing Nothing by Payal Kapadia – France, India | 2021 – 96 minutes

L is a university student studying in India who writes letters to her estranged lover. Blurring lines between reality and fiction, dreams, memories, fantasies and anxieties, A Night Of Knowing Nothing weaves fragments of a romance and moments of domestic life with handheld documentary footage captured around the country over several years and takes us on a vivid and personal journey into the conflicted heart of contemporary India. (DIFF 2022)


All That Breathes by Shaunak Sen – India, USA, UK | 2022 – 94 minutes

In one of the world’s most populated cities, two brothers – Nadeem and Saud – devote their lives to the quixotic effort of protecting the black kite, a majestic bird of prey essential to the ecosystem of New Delhi that has been falling from the sky at alarming rates. Amid environmental toxicity and social unrest, the ‘kite brothers’ spend day and night caring for the creatures in their makeshift avian basement hospital. Director Shaunak Sen explores the connection between the kites and the Muslim brothers who help them return to the skies, offering a mesmerizing chronicle of inter-species coexistence. (DIFF 2022)


Fire in the Mountains by Ajitpal Singh – India | 2021 – 84 minutes

Set in a remote village in Uttarakhand, Fire In The Mountains tells the story of Chandra, a pragmatic and hardworking mother who saves money to have a road constructed to her home so that she can take her wheelchair-bound son for physiotherapy. Her husband, on the other hand, believes that a shamanic ritual is the only cure for their son’s condition and steals her savings in order to perform the ritual. Exploited by deeply embedded patriarchal inequalities and subjected to numerous humiliations, Chandra nevertheless confounds expectations in a dramatic denouement. The film explores the tensions between a rapidly modernising India and older, more traditional values. (DIFF 2022)


Joyland by Saim Sadiq – Pakistan | 2022 – 126 minutes

Mumtaz, a strong-willed makeup artist, passionate about her work, lives with her quiet, unemployed husband, Haider, in an extended joint family with her father-in-law. When Haider finds work as a backup dancer for the charismatic transgender musician, Biba, he discovers another way to love and live. Mumtaz, forced to be a housewife, is suffocated with patriarchal demands. From Mumtaz with her resolute ego and Biba who is true to her desires, to Haider’s dynamic with his father with his domineering ways, the film paints a delicate picture of shifting expectations of gender and sexuality in a religious and patriarchal society. (DIFF 2022)


Nine Hills One Valley by Haobam Paban Kumar – India | 2021 – 75 minutes

Anam Ahum, a Tangkhul from the hills of Manipur, journeys to Imphal City in the valley to meet with his daughter one last time before she leaves for Delhi in search of a new job. On the way, he encounters a range of people and through their stories, becomes aware of the brutality of ethnic and inter-tribal conflicts. However, in spite of the painful recollections and experiences, glimpses of hope still remain. (DIFF 2022)

Once Upon a Time in Calcutta by Aditya Vikram Sengupta – India, France, Norway | 2021 – 129 minutes

After the loss of her only daughter, Ela, a former actress, not only loses her identity as a mother but also the only reason to be with her husband. While trying to find a new identity for herself, she tries to reignite her relationship with an old lover who suddenly resurfaces in her life. Desperate to move out of her husband’s house and buy a place of her own, Ela confronts her step-brother to claim her half of the share in their ancestral property. But he refuses to comply as he lives with a deep-seated resentment for Ela’s mother. When even the banks refuse to give her a loan, Ela eventually succumbs to the lascivious overtures of her boss, who runs a real-estate business through a ponzi scheme. When the crimes of Ela’s boss are discovered, Ela loses her new-found identity, love and independence all at once. (DIFF 2022)


Rehana by Abdullah Mohammad Saad – Bangladesh, Singapore, Qatar | 2021 – 107 minutes

Rehana, an assistant professor at a medical college, struggles to keep the harmony between work and family while playing all the complex roles of teacher, doctor, sister, daughter, and mother. One evening, she witnesses a student storming out of a professor’s office, crying. Deeply impacted by this event, Rehana’s life starts to spiral out of control. She gradually descends into obsession, seeking retribution, just as she receives a complaint from the school about her six-year-old daughter’s unusual behaviour. Rehana refuses to accept the madness of the patriarchal society she lives in and will put everything at stake in order to find justice for her student and her daughter. (DIFF 2022)


Two Friends by Prasun Chatterjee – India | 2021 – 111 minutes

Dostojee, set in the aftermath of the the Babri Masjid demolition and the Bombay bombings, tells the story of a friendship between two boys who belong to conflicting religious communities. The boys, Safikul, the son of a Muslim weaver, and Palash, the son of a Hindu Brahmin,  live in a remote village in West Bengal near the India-Bangladesh border. Their friendship is suffused with a beautiful innocence that belies the harsh realities that fate has in store for them. (DIFF 2022)


Writing With Fire by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh – India | 2021 – 93 minutes

Out of a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, emerges India’s only newspaper led by Dalit women. Armed with smartphones, wit and tenacity, Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions, be it on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues or within the confines of their homes, and redefine what it means to be powerful. (DIFF 2022)


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