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London Film Festival 2016 – South Asian lookouts!

London Film Festival 2016 – South Asian lookouts!

September 1 2016

The country’s largest film festival programme was released today we were there to see what South Asian films have made it through and what else might be of interest…

TWO films standout in particular as the pick of this year’s South Asian films at the London Film Festival (October 5-16).

They are “Miryza“, a romantic tale told in a high Bollywood style and “Lion” which stars Londoner Dev Patel in the lead role with Nicole Kidman playing his Australian mother.

Among the other films that will draw huge interest are Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” and more than one film featuring star Riz Ahmed.

The full programme of more than 250 films to be shown in the capital over the 11-day period was unveiled today in Leicester Square by British Film Institute Chief Executive Amanda Neville and Festival Director Clare Stewart.

There were also surprise appearances from directors Amma Asante, whose film “A United Kingdom” opens the festival and Ben Wheatley, director of the high octane “Free Fire”, which has been executively produced by legendary director Martin Scorsese and closes the festival.

Among the other films of direct interest for South Asian audiences are “An Insignificant Man”, “The Bait”, “A Billion Colour Story”, which are all from India; “Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait” from Bhutan; and the Cannes Film Festival award-winning first feature from Shahrbanoo Sadat, “Wolf and Sheep”.

There is also a screening of the 1979 Shyam Benegal classic featuring Shashi Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah and Jennifer Kendal classic, “Junoon”.

Lion” will be shown as an American Express Gala presentation. Directed by Garth Davis, it tells the remarkable true story of Saroo Brierley, an Indian railway child and street urchin, who embarks on trying to find his mother and brother, having been adopted by an Australian couple and raised there. Patel who last spoke on video to when his film, “The Man Who Knew Infinity” talks briefly about this film and says it is “emotional” – see details of the link below.

Mirzya” is an epic, which tells two love stories as one – disconnected and reconnected in time but with the two central characters inextricably drawn to each other. Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag“, “Rang De Basanti“), with a screenplay by one of India’s most iconic creative forces, Gulzar – poet, lyricist and director-screenwriter, and supporting roles from Om Puri and Art Malik, and easy on the eye newcomers Harshvardhan Kapoor (son of Bollywood and “Slumdog Millionaire” star, Anil) and Saiyimi Kher, this promises to be something different and the trailer shown at the launch showed off the lush cinematography and stirring Indian music.

With the festival split into different strands such as ‘Debate, ‘Laugh’, ‘Dare’ and ‘Thrill’, Stewart revealed that “Mirzya” will be the LFF Love Gala presentation.

The film will be screened at a new temporary cinema close to the BFI Southbank itself, on the other side of the river at Embankment Garden. Stewart said the venue had been added to celebrate the festival’s 60th year.

Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” is the story of 10 year old Phiona Mutesi (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga), who grows up in an impoverished Kampala, Uganda but finds she has an aptitude for chess and is encouraged by missionary Robert Katende (David Oyelowo). Stewart praises the film in the LFF brochure and says Nair “gets under the skin of this remarkable story, never shying away from the challenges and hardships faced by Phiona and her family, while constantly rejoicing in this young woman’s steely determination and grace”.

An Insignificant Man” – is a documentary charting the rise of Aam Adami Party (Common Man Party) leader Arvind Kejriwal. A civil servant turned politician activist, his party were swept to power in local elections in the capital in Delhi in 2015 and in his anti-establishment rhetoric, some see hope and optimism, others dread and fury. Produced by Anand Gandhi (director of “Ship of Theseus” LFF2013) and directed by Khushboo Rana, this should be a fascinating insight into Indian politics at a time of great and continuing change.

You are My Sunday” – tells the story of a group of men who love to play football on Juhu Beach in Mumbai. The men are good friends and all trying to negotiate the challenges and stimulations that lie in any metropolis, but when an old man joins them one Sunday to play, no one foresees the trouble he will bring when he kicks a ball inadvertently into a political rally. First time feature director Milind Dhaimade’s film articulates a “depiction of straight men sharing emotions and love for each other as they struggle to win the day is both a rare and welcome sight,” writes Cary Rajinder Sawhney in the LFF brochure.

A Billion Colour Story” – focuses on the plight of an 11 year old boy whose cool and connected Mumbai existence is threatened by two non-religious parents whose moviemaking efforts run them into financial difficulties. His Dad, Imran, and mum, Parvati, are left contemplating leaving India to fulfil their dreams but Hari Aziz has other ideas…Made by N Padmakumar with well-established actor Satish Kaushik among the credits.

Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait” is a rare feature from the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Buddhist lama and filmmaker Khyentse Norbu, whose debut “The Cup” about a football-mad teenager was such a success, returns with “a film that is tonally dark, gorgeously shot and utterly astounding,” writes Kate Taylor in the brochure. Ostensibly about a special retreat held only every 12 years, to replenish the soul, it travels to a place supposedly between life and death…

Junoon” – a period drama that covers events shortly after the First War of Indian Independence (The Indian Mutiny), based on iconic Indian writer, Ruskin Bond’s novella, “Flight of the Pigeons”, it explores the emotional scars and indicates possibly new allegiances. Digitally restored to a 2K format, it “is an underseen Indian classic and this restoration by Kunal Kapoor will hopefully ensure it reaches a new audience,” writes Robin Baker.

The Bait” – Made by award-winning filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta this is exploration of Indian society like no other. Told in his inimitably magic realist style, the story sees three eccentric characters’ fate intertwined by the desire by one of them to slay a tiger and do so by providing an unusual bait…

Wolf and Sheep” debuted at the Critics Week section at Cannes this year. Depicting a side of Afghanistan you are unlikely to have seen before, it is about growing up and the slights and joys of childhood. Mixed with elements of lyricism, folklore and myth (without a terrorist in sight), this is a powerful fable of hope and simplicity. saw it in Cannes and interviewed director Sadat when we there. See the video link below

Una” and “City of Tiny Lights” are just two films that feature Ahmed, while the former is set in Australia, the latter in multi-cultural London with much loved actor Roshan Seth appearing as Ahmed’s (Tommy Akhtar) on screen dad.

Look out for more from the London Film Festival, including a competition, interviews and reviews – more to follow in run up to festival opening…

Public booking does not start till September 15. Festival starts October 5.

Check full listings:

*More pictures and information soon

Dev Patel video interview, see after 4mins

Shahrbanoo Sadat ‘Wolf and Sheep’ interview

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture