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Love, honour and strife – ‘South Asian’ films at the London Film Festival 2014

Love, honour and strife – ‘South Asian’ films at the London Film Festival 2014

September 4 2014

The UK’s largest film festival has something to offer those looking for multi-cultural UK tales, and stories from India (Bengal), Pakistan and Sri Lanka...

IF YOU’RE a keen follower of South Asian cinema – whether from the subcontinent or the home grown UK variety, there’s a bunch of films – both features and shorts – to look forward to at the London Film Festival (LFF).

Clare Stewart, the British Film Institute (BFI) head of cinemas and festivals, unveiled the full programme yesterday at a launch ceremony at the Odeon Leicester Square in London.

The festival opens on October 8 with the much anticipated “The Imitation Game”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the tortured mathematician-scientist Second World War code breaker Alan Turing. The film features an all-star British line up, with Keira Knightly, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong and Charles Dance, in supporting roles. All are expected to attend the glittering opening gala.

Closing the festival is “Fury” which stars Brad Pitt as an Allies Second World War tank commander, who has to go behind enemy lines and is forced to manage a clumsy rookie in this delicate operation. Pitt and action director David Ayer will attend the premiere on October 19.

Perhaps the leading the way among the South Asian offerings this year is “Labour of Love”. It is nominated for the Sutherland Prize which recognises an outstanding first feature by a director. Indian Director-screenwriter Adityavikram Sengupta gets the prestigious nod. Set in the back lanes of Kolkata (Calcutta) and evoking two of the great Indian-Bengali cinematic masters Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, it charts the fate of two people seemingly in love, but separated by time, geography and circumstance.

From the UK is “Catch Me Daddy”, a thriller with a 17-year-old Pakistani origin girl and her white boyfriend looking for a way out of the mess that her father and brother believe she has only inflicted upon herself. Sameena Jabeen Ahmed is a revelation as the teenager at the heart of the tussle. She is nominated for the Best British Newcomer Award, presented at the festival.

Similar in some ways by theme is “Dukhtar”, from Pakistan. Set in the northern tribal area, two bickering warlords agree a deal: the 12-year-old daughter of one is to be wedded to his aging foe. Her mother is horrified and plots a dangerous course for her daughter. Director Afia Nathaniel, in her debut film, brings a keen and critical eye to tradition and the crushing impact of centuries-old patriarchal belief systems.

Challenging in quite another direction is “Magarita, with a straw”. Indian actor Kalki Koechlin (last seen in “Yellow Boots”) is Laila, a disabled teenager, whose quiet academic brilliance takes her to New York where she undergoes a journey of self-discovery (especially sexually) that puts her at odds with folks back home in India.

From the badlands of India’s labyrinthine and unwieldy legal system comes “Court”. The suicide of a sewerage worker allegedly incited by a folk singer sets off a trail of court proceedings that increasingly plunges the viewer into the heart of an argument seemingly raging in India at present. What price traditional practices against a more rational westernised value system?

Premiered in Cannes this year, and acclaimed for its realism and earthy depictions of a crime family caught between survival and extinction, “Titli” is not for the squeamish. Ranvir Shorey adds a touch of Bollywood glam and grit to much anticipated Kanu Behl’s (writer, “Love Sex Aur Dhoka”) directorial debut film.

From Sri Lanka is “The Strange Familiar”; housewife Dinithi and architect Sachinthra have problems in their marriage – a betrayal leads to increasing tension and a sense of foreboding for the central characters, seemingly set on climactic confrontation.

Main picture: “Labour of Love”

More on these films in the build up to the festival…

(From the ‘London Calling’ strand)
Two Dosas” – A mixed race couple settle down to a romantic dinner at an authentic Indian restaurant, but things simply do not go to plan…directed by Sarmad Masud, and written by Nikesh Shukla.

Star actor Riz Ahmed shows off his directorial talent in “Daytimer” as ‘Naseem’ bunks off to go off on a rave…

Nida Manzoor directs “7.2”…a schoolgirl faces an ultimatum but can she avoid what seems almost inevitable…?

Three Brothers” – what happens when a father returns to Pakistan, abandoning his three young sons who struggle to cope. Based on true life events and directed by Aleem Khan.

Public booking begins September 18, see London Film Festival website
BFI members September 11
Want to become a member?
@bfi #lff

• “Labour of Love” (‘Asha Jaoar Majhe’) 84mins
6.15pm, Sunday, October 12, Odeon Covent Garden, 135 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8AH.
9pm, Tuesday, October 14, Rich Mix, Shoreditch High Street, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA.

• “Catch Me Daddy” (111mins) – 6.30pm, Thursday, October 16, Vue 5, (Leicester Square)
9pm, Friday, October 17, Vue Islington, N1 Centre, 36 Parkfield Street, N1 0PS
8.45pm, Sunday, October 19, Vue 7 (Leicester Square)

• “Dukhtar” (93mins)
6.30pm, Friday, October 10, Ritzy, Coldharbour Lane, SW2 1JG
1pm, Tuesday, October 14, ICA, The Mall, SW1Y 5AH

• “Magarita, With A Straw” (100mins)
6pm, Friday, October 17, Vue 5, Leicester Square.
1pm, Saturday, Vue Islington

• “Court” (116mins)
1pm, Sunday, October 12, Curzon Soho, 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 5DY
6.15pm, Tuesday, October 14, Vue Islington

• “Titli” (‘Butterfly) 125mins
6.15pm, Thursday, October 9, ICA.
3.15pm, Saturday, October 11, Rich Mix

• “The Strange Familiar” (119mins)
1pm, Saturday, October 11, ICA.
6pm, Monday, October 13, NFT2, BFI Southbank, SE1 8XT

SHORTS (featured in this piece)
• Screened in one sitting along with three other films, total running time 104 minutes – 6.30pm, Thursday, October 16 NFT1.

For Full programme and listings, please check:

Reviews of films appearing at LFF (seen Cannes 2014)

Titli” (news)

(Including “Foxcatcher”)

(Including, “Titli”, “Snow In Paradise”)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture