The London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) on Thursday unveiled the line-up for its 2021 edition as a "love letter to India", amid the ongoing hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic in the sub-continent.
The festival will open on June 17 with a UK premiere of ‘W.O.M.B. (Women of My Billion)’, an inspirational feature documentary on Srishti Bakshi as she walks the entire length of India (nearly 4,000 km) over 240 days to explore the experiences of other women in its billion-plus population.
Another highlight of the festival is a special focus on British filmmakers of South Asian origin and their continued contribution to British cinema’s success.
“We will be showcasing the unstoppable force that is India's rich and diverse filmmaking, and of course the festival will be helping to highlight and support COVID charities working in South Asia,” said LIFF Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney.
“In this year when 'Britishness' is being re-defined, we offer our 'Great British Asians' strand which will celebrate British Asian filmmakers and throw a spotlight on exciting emerging talents," he said.
Supported by the British Film Institute (BFI) and funds from the National Lottery, the Bagri Foundation backed annual film festival will be screening across London, Birmingham and Manchester until July 4.
"Last year we grew our audiences quite substantially by going online and UK-wide. With the UK scene improving, we are delighted to not only offer a strong high definition online experience on LoveLIFFatHome.com, but to also welcome our audiences back to the big screen in three major UK cities, at some of their finest cinemas,” added Sawhney.
The year's highlights include on stage “Special In Conversations” with filmmakers like Asif Kapadia and Gurinder Chadha. The festival also has a new strand dedicated to ecology-related films, called “Save The Planet”, screening features that in different ways reflect lives affected by deforestation and rising sea levels.
“It has been a difficult year for many these past 12 months, and we are pleased to support a little escape for you via LIFF’s hybrid festival this year,” said Alka Bagri, Trustee of the Bagri Foundation.
“Our seventh year as title sponsor showcases classic films and Q&As, as well as a range of UK premieres from some top British Asian and South Asian talent. Whether you attend in person, or watch from the comfort of your sofa, we hope you feel as excited as we are to see fresh faces and legendary stories from across Asian cinema,” she said.
Films to be screened will be across several languages with English subtitles, including Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Urdu, Malayalam, Marathi and Gujarati.
Ben Luxford, Head of UK Wide Audiences at the BFI, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting the festival again this year. Thanks to National Lottery players we’re able to help bring this exciting programme to cinemas and households across the UK.
“The focus on British Asian filmmakers this year is a particular highlight.”
The festival also premieres the feature documentary ‘Ahimsa: Gandhi The Power of the Powerless’ and celebrates the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray on his 100th birth anniversary. One of Ray's greatest actors, the late Soumitra Chatterjee, is profiled in the premiere of ‘Abhijaan’ and some light-hearted moments are brought in with the Bengali drama ‘Searching For Happiness’ and black comedy ‘Ashes On A Road Trip’.
The Tiger Award winner at the 50th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Tamil film ‘Koozhangal’ (Pebbles) makes its UK debut at the cinema, as does Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's ‘Kayattam (A’hr)’ in Malayalam.