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Our cultural highlights of 2020 – what are yours?

Our cultural highlights of 2020 – what are yours?

It’s been a strange and challenging year in many ways but many of us did find solace in arts and culture. Here are three writers’ picks of 2020…

Sailesh Ram, editor of

‘Mogul Mowgli’ (London Film Festival and released in UK in October, available online now)

ABSORBING and ambitious, it has a lot to say about culture, identity, family, friendship, work and love. Riz Ahmed – who co-wrote this film with friend and US -based debutant narrative feature director Bassam Tariq – has produced a film which will be with us for a long time and is the start of what I hope will be an exciting slate of features from this talented duo.
From us (Interviews & video interviews):

Small Axe Series (BBC One and Amazon Prime – November)

THIS whole series of five films conceived by Sir Steve McQueen and directed by him seemed like a rightful re-reading of Britain’s cultural history and identity. For too long, we have all been erased. Not any more. Each story was exceptional and ‘Lovers Rock’ and ‘Alex Wheatle’ were my picks – one joyous and romantic, the other inspirational and uplifting. Thank you, Small Axe team and the BBC for finally making it happen.
On BBC i-player (UK only)

One Night in Miami

One Night in Miami (Toronto International Film Festival digital in September – currently in selected cinemas in the UK and US and on Amazon Prime from January 15 2021)

A BRILLIANT ensemble piece, wonderfully arranged by Regina King, who makes the switch from actor to debutant director with skill, and aplomb. The story of one evening between Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, Malcolm X and American football player, Jim Brown is electrifying, entertaining, amusing and still hugely relevant for the themes it covers.

‘Another Kind of Concrete’

KOUSHIK BANERJEA’S debut novel is rich, moving and extremely poignant. Set in 1977 and about a period of social strife and racial tension in Britain, it depicts a Bengali origin family surviving in South London with understanding, intelligence and humour. A beautiful read.

Saudha/The Gronthee/Radha Raman Folk Festival (concerts, talks and interviews through April to November 2020)

A SERIES of different events hosted by the above – all online and during the lockdown. What was impressive was the frequency and variety of these and many racked up thousands of views. A special word for Ahmed Kaysher who is involved in all three organisations – and an inspirational figure!

Suman Bhuchar, associate editor

The Long Goodbye – Riz Ahmed (Manchester International Festival Live, December) and Youtube film

RIZ AHMED’S ability to blend personal memory, colonial history and identity into digestible statements and combine all that with a facility to entertain is exceptional, I believe.
The Long Goodbye Youtube film

Film festivals (Berlinale – February; London Indian Film Festival physical in September and London Film Festival (digital in October)

I REALLY enjoyed attending the Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival); Berlin is such an iconic city and I got to visit some famous sights such as The Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. It was fantastic to be there and cover ‘Mogul Mowgli’ and the Indian film, ‘Eeb Allay Ooo!’.
It was very enjoyable actually going to the BFI Southbank for LIFF’s physical edition in September and especially seeing the film, ‘Shut Up Sona’, about music star Sona Monapatra’s journey through MeToo and facing down right-wing keyboard warriors in India. Seeing the film, ‘The Disciple’ at London Film Festival was awesome – writer-director Chaitanye Tamhane perfectly blending the conversation of Guru Shishya (studying under a venerated figure) versus commercialism and the strictures of Indian classical music.
Sona Mohapatra interview about the film
The Bagri London Indian Film Festival:

The Berlin Wall

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance – Material Men Redux Facebook version July

A STUNNING piece, beautifully rendered, about colonial migration and indentured labour, featuring a bharatanatyam dancer and Dutch Surinam hip hop star Shailesh Bahoran. Sooraj Subramaniam is the Indian classical dancer who is based in Belgium, but grew up in Malaysia and Australia. Both men had grandparents who left India as indentured labourers.

Chila Kumari Singh Burman – Tate Britain Winter Commission (until February 1 2021) ‘Remembering a Brave New World’

‘I’VE MASHED UP THE TATE’ perfectly encapsulates what Dr Chila Kumari Singh Burman has done to the façade of one of the country’s most iconic buildings. It’s magical – go see it for yourself!
Interview with artist

Jimmi Harkishin and Coronation Street Corrie 60th anniversary, the world’s longest running TV soap (December)

WHAT an achievement and how brilliant it was to talk to Jimmi Harkishin, who plays Dev Ahlahan, the longest serving Asian character in Weatherfield. We’ve seen Dev’s ups and downs now for 20 years and it was great to discuss this all with him.

Momtaz Begum-Hossain, colour and craft expert and acv presenter

‘Four More Shots’ Season 2 (Amazon Prime April)

THIS was escapist entertainment that helped me to get through the first lockdown. It’s the strongest contemporary representation of Indian women out there – and to my mind, the strongest there has ever been in an Indian drama series. Forget the tired comparisons with ‘Sex and the City’ and perhaps the very first episode – this series has it all!

LoveLIFF (London Indian Film Festival) at Home (June)

LIFF went digital for the first ever time in its 11-year history and laid down a template for other film festivals to follow. Especially powerful was four very brilliant women filmmakers – Shobana Azmi, Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta, and Freida Pinto, talking about their craft. (For the acv story on Pinto, please click on the picture below).

Screenshot of Freida Pinto in her LIFF at Home in Conversation

Royal Albert at Home sessions – An Evening with Nitin Sawhney and Friends (July 10)

A FABULOUS concert and a real treat to hear Sawhney collaborate with his usual crew, except this time they were all in different locations but played together and it worked perfectly – a real feat!
Nitin Sawhney and friends:

‘I May Destroy You’ on BBC1 from June

SUCH original storytelling and clever writing and unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere, let alone on Auntie! Fantastic.
BBC-I player (UK only):

The Big Flower Fight – Netflix (May)

I LOVED this eight-episode show – it was hugely creative, as 10 teams vied to be the best flower arranging pair on the planet. It was a lot of fun and there was a riot of colour and as someone also interested in crafting, it was right up my street. The winner was quite a surprise too!

Want to tell us what you most enjoyed – comment on our Facebook page please

Main picture: Just some of the highlights from this year: Clockwise – ‘Another kind of Concrete’ by Kaushik Banerjea; Dr Chila Kumari Singh Burman by her Tuk-Tuk, part of the display at Tate Britain, ‘Remembering A Brave New World’; One Night in Miami; Riz Ahmed in ‘Mogul Mowgli’; Freida Pinto, LIFF Conversation; Berlin Wall; Jimmi Harkishin (‘Coronation Street); Nitin Sawhney at the Royal Albert at Home concert

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture