A documentary feature on Mahatma Gandhi and another on legendary Satyajit Ray are part of the line-up of 58 films that will be showcased next month at the virtual edition of the 21st New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF).
The NYIFF, presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), will run from June 4 - June 13 virtually. It's the second year in a row that the oldest and prestigious film festival that features cinema from India and diaspora has gone online due to the COVID19 pandemic.
Award-winning filmmaker Prithvi Konanur's "Pinki Elli?" (Where’s Pinki?) will serve as the opening film at the festival.
The documentary on Gandhi, Ramesh Sharma-directed "Ahimsa Gandhi: The Power of the Powerless", will serve as the festival's centerpiece film along with Ajitesh Sharma's "WOMB: Women of my Billions".
Ramesh Sharma decided to make "Ahimsa Gandhi: The Power of the Powerless" in 2019, when the world commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Shot in India, South Africa, the US, and Europe, the documentary tracks the influence of Gandhi's non-violence approach on world leaders including Martin Luther King Jr, late Congressman John Lewis, former South African president Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
International musicians U2 and AR Rahman have contributed to the title track of the documentary, the NYIFF said.
The festival has selected 1984 documentary "The Music of Satyajit Ray" to celebrate the birth centenary of the globally renowned filmmaker, writer, illustrator and music composer who had been awarded the Bharat Ratna and an honorary Oscar.
The film is based on interviews with the filmmaker, who passed away at the age 70 in 1992, and consists a montage of Ray’s works and rare recording sessions.
IAAC Executive Director Suman Gollamudi said that last year the film festival had to be reimagined in a virtual format and it involved pivoting to an online platform.
"We emerged stronger with a larger footprint as global audiences engaged with the films. This year, with the pandemic creating even more distress, we feel a greater responsibility to provide filmmakers an outlet to showcase their work. Plus, offer audiences hope through cinematic stories that give meaning, form and shape to lift our emotions," she added.
The virtual festival, powered by the technology service provider for indie filmmakers and festivals MovieSaints, will feature screenings of 23 narrative features, 8 documentary features, and 27 short films.
NYIFF Festival Director Aseem Chhabra said, "We aimed to truly underscore the NYIFF commitment to diversity and cultural representation in film."
This year, the festival will feature films in 15 languages including Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Oriya, Telugu and Urdu.
The line-up includes National Award-winning films like "Khisa", "Sonsi" and "Biryaani".
IAAC Chairman Dr Nirmal Mattoo said the festival line-up reflects the "incredible diversity" of Indian cinematic creativity.
"For the first time, the 2021 lineup truly reflects the incredible diversity of Indian cinematic creativity.
"This standout collection of films introduces new voices, fresh perspectives and original storytelling, which enhances the NYIFF curatorial legacy of spotlighting movies that go on to receive critical global acclaim."
The curtains will brought down by "Fire in the Mountains", the award-winning movie by Ajitpal Singh, which has been selected as the closing night film.