By Tenzin Sangmo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov.2: The opening night of the 7th Dharamshala International Film Festival saw a wide ranging attendees and energetic volunteers at the Herman Gmeiner Hall, Upper TCV School
Shot in Mumbai and Ladakh, Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence, an 84-minute-long film by Dar Gai, a Ukranian Woman filmmaker, was screened as the opening film.
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, the founders of White Crane Arts & Media Trust, presenting the festival said that the festival that started on an impulse to bring cinema culture to their hometown has been successful thus far because independent cinema needs space like this. They also spoke about the festival’s outreach program that screens movies at villages, schools, colleges, and other venues including Dharamshala District Jail in a bid to promote cinema culture across groups.
A film appreciation competition amongst 26 students from six different schools, in two groups, up to class X. They were shown a short film to write reviews for and three winners were awarded certificates.
This time the festival has come up with a third screening venue, a giant inflated outdoor screening hall on the basketball ground in front of the Dekyi Tsering hall, called Picture Time. It could accommodate up to 200 people. The festival is using DCP projectors for the first time for all the three venues and Dolby digital surrounding sound.
This year, DIFF started collaborating with an artist or a group of artists to “redefine and develop the festival’s overall look. Thukral and Tagra are their inaugural artist partners. The duo designed the poster of the festival, a different artistic rendition of rhododendron, the state flower of Himachal Pradesh.
Apart from the directors of the films being featured at the festival, we also saw the presence of kalon and other high officials of CTA. Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpai, best known for his role in movies like Gangs of Wasseypur and Satya is attending as the lead actor of Devashish Makhija’s film Bhonsle, screened on the second day. It also featured a talk scheduled for Nov 2 about the Art of Acting with Manoj Bajpai and Aseem Chabra at 12:15 pm at Dekyi Tsering Hall.
This year, a total of up to 30 feature narratives, feature documentaries, short films and children’s films are going to be showcased. The selection process, the founders said, was interesting and rewarding. As it has happened before, a theme has emerged this year from the selection; the complex relationship between parents and their offspring.
DIFF founders’ own feature film, ‘The Sweet Requiem’ will see its Asia Premiere at the festival, on the last day of the festival. Another notable film is Raghu Rai: An unframed Portrait, a 55 min long documentary film to be screened at 4 pm, Nov 4 at Hermann Gmeiner auditorium. Rai is also known for his portraits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His photo book on His Holiness the Dalai Lama came out recently called: The God in Exile.
When asked which film would he recommend if one could watch only one, Sonam quickly responded “The Red Phalluis” a film by Bhutanese filmmaker Tashi Gyeltshen to be screened on 3d November at 12:15 pm at Herman Gmeiner Auditorium. It is about a disillusioned teenage girl in a gloomy village in central Bhutan who marries a guy from a lower caste, a butcher and the societal strains caused by it.
It must be noted that hundreds of film buffs from across the country and abroad are present for this festival. Stenzin Tankyong, a filmmaker from Ladakh who came all the way to volunteer here as a tech assistant said “I think DIFF gives great exposure to filmmakers like us to have a first-hand experience of being involved with an international film festival. It has given me a great opportunity to interact with Tibetan filmmakers from different parts of the world.”
Tibetan filmmakers, on the other hand, are sorely missing in the movie lists. Sonam, when asked about it said, DIFF is a partisan less platform for all non-commercial film lovers. "We haven’t come across films by Tibetan filmmakers that fit the bill yet. But I am sure there are many coming up. When asked if DIFF would screen Pema Tseden’s film, Sonam noted that it may be too good, as Tseden la is a professional filmmaker of a different calibre.
The second day saw a good turnout for a rainy day. DIFF presenters believe cinema culture should be promoted for its transformational potential and to exchange knowledge and understanding of other societies, cultures and ideas.
Here is the schedule for those interested.