By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 4: The Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) kicked off at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts on Thursday following two years of online hiatus, with Sundance Jury prize awardee Fire in the Mountains by Ajitpal Singh as the first screening. The four-day festival is set to showcase 80 films from 32 countries, including 21 feature narratives, 16 documentaries and 43 short films, including three Tibetan titles.
The indie festival is renowned for its unique setting and eclectic mix of genres and themes from filmmakers around the globe. The three Tibetan titles include; ‘Dhulpa’ by Kunsang Kyirong, ‘You Tibetan’ by Tenzin Yeshi and Tukdam: Between Worlds by Donagh Coleman. The two shorts deal with stories from the Tibetan diaspora where lives of immigrants in Canada and the US are shown, while the third documents the state of tukdam by Tibetan meditators.
“After the turmoil of the pandemic years when we were forced to go online, it is such a relief and pleasure to be together again. One good news is that, despite the challenging times, we had more submissions than ever before, and making the final selection has been a monumental challenge [for us]. I want to especially thank all the filmmakers who have made the effort to be with us here at DIFF to show their films, conduct workshops, masterclasses and participate in panel discussions,” co-founder Tenzing Sonam said at the opening address on Monday.
Filmmaker Ritu Sarin also addressed the ceremony by welcoming all film enthusiasts, “We make these films because we crave a real audience that responds with laughs and cries. You, the audience, are so important. We have an unprecedented number of filmmakers here from India, not just filmmakers but filmmaking teams and they are all here because they want to watch their films with audiences.”
This year’s highlights are Oscar nominees; feature narrative Joyland (2022) by Pakistani director Saim Sadiq and documentary Writing with Fire (2021) from Indian filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Sen. The 11th edition also has various panels and talks; screenwriter Varun Grover and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap are among the most anticipated events this year.
DIFF has been held annually for the last 10 years in Dharamshala, which is the seat of the Tibetan spiritual head Dalai Lama and home to many Tibetans. The autumn festival has established itself as one of the most intimate, creative and independent platform in India for films from around the world.