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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2023 – preview: Quite the selection from love and pleasure to Independence, unity and mountain tales…

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2023 – preview: Quite the selection from love and pleasure to Independence, unity and mountain tales…

There are quite a few films from this festival on our radar and they should be on yours too – whether attending or not…

THERE are range of films of interest for anyone who is interested in films about, for, or by South Asians in the forthcoming Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2023).

The festival starts on Thursday, September 7-17. Let’s take a look…

Iconic Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta brings her first collaborative project to TIFF, ‘I am Sirat’ (pictured at top above) – with video content maker Sirat Taneja – as they (Taneja) live a double life in New Delhi, as both the boy and man his mother expects him to be, and the woman Taneja is at work and outside the family – and becoming – as a person in transition.

Equally exciting but perhaps for different reasons is the return of the Canadian-Indian director, Tarsem, as he returns to the big screen with a Punjabi potboiler, ‘Dear Jassi’ (pictured middle above). A conventional boy-girl romance and following the classic Romeo & Juliet trope, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, to give his full name, goes back to his roots in more ways than one. The sbotar director started out as a celebrated music video creative before storming the ad world and then moved into traditional filmmaking in Hollywood – with ‘The Cell’ (Jennifer Lopez) in 2006 and then the ‘Immortals’ in 2011 (with Henry Cavill and Freida Pinto).

Alongside these two well-established filmmakers is the towering figure of Indian Anand Patwardhan from the world of documentaries. The veteran presents his most personal film yet – ‘The World is Family’ (pictured above at bottom) – titled after the ancient and well-known Sanskrit saying, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, and looks back at his parents’ world as proud Indian freedom-fighters against British rule and part of a political grouping that believed in Hindu-Muslim brotherhood. Patwardhan has been chronicling social and political change in India all his life with a strong sense of social justice and compassion. This 96-minute film screens first next Sunday (September 10) with two further shows.

Here’s a snapshot of other movies screening at the festival – for dates and time, click on the link at the bottom…

The Queen of My Dreams

The Queen of My Dreams
Director: Fawzia Mirza

Starring Canadian Amrit Kaur (‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’) as Azra, this is Mirza’s deep dive into both queer and South Asian Bollywood culture. A grad student happily exploring herself in Canada, she has to return to her parents’ native Pakistan to grieve the death of her father Hassan (Hamza Haq) in 1999. Enter Nimra Bucha (‘Ms Marvel’) and most recently so wonderful as another mother in ‘Polite Society’. Mariam is stern but once upon a time had the same sort of outlook as her daughter to a degree – and the same passions – Shamila Tagore and Bollywood cinema. Mirza wrote ‘Signature Move’ which which screened at BFI Flare in 2017 saw the filmmaker herself team up in front of the camera as a lead actor with Shabana Azmi. As we said then, Mirza was one to watch and don’t be surprised if this becomes a cult classic…

Thank You For Coming

Thank You for Coming
Dir: Karan Boolani

Bhumi Pednekar heads up a cast that includes Bollywood icon Anil Kapoor (‘Slumdog Millionaire’) and this is unapologetically a sex comedy about a woman who yes… can’t do that deed, until the morning after her engagement party… Our much respected and successful food blogger Kanika Kapoor (Pednekar) has no idea who got over the line as it were. This is director’s Karan Boolani’s first feature and the Australian trained filmmaker isn’t afraid to go where others would crumble or cringe… Described by TIFF as “one of the surprises of the year”, it screens to the public over the final weekend (September 16 &17).

Lost Ladies

Lost Ladies (Laapataa Ladies)
Kiran Rao
Remember ‘Dhobi Ghat’ (2010)? Rao again goes in search of the underbelly of Indian society with a bride swap that exposes the good, the bad and the plain damn hilarious by the sounds of the blurb. Jaya (Pratibha Ranta) and Phool (Nitanshi Goel) are being married into families that suit them – except here the swap sees them join families whose lifestyles and appetites are quite different. “Rao’s charming, whimsical hoots untangles its labyrinthine web of kinships with surprising depth and an endearing hilarity”, says TIFF.


Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

This gets a Midnight Madness screening and sounds suitably zany and wild – with two martial arts buddies caught up in a dacoit attack on one of India’s most prestigious long distance trains – the Rajdhani Express that connects Mumbai with Delhi and has a love bride (Tanya Maniktala of ‘A Suitable Boy’ fame) on it and being spirited away to an arranged marriage, while her erstwhile lover Amrit (Lakshya) mounts a rescue bid.

In Flames

In Flames
Zarrar Kahn

Billed as a horror film this is a beautifully assembled romance that goes off the rails – and more out of extreme circumstances than anything our central protagonists do – and explores those darkest spaces.
Those of you who are regular readers and viewers will know this title from our Cannes coverage earlier in the year – now it goes to Canada where director Kahn spent his earlier years.

From Youtube channel and Cannes this year –

Ramesha Nawal (Mariam) –
Bakhtawar Mahshar (Mother)

We Grown Now

We Grown Now
Minhal Baig

This is a simple story about two young black kids, aged 12, growing up on a sprawling and infamous Chicago housing estate, Cabrini-Green. Set in 1992, Malik (Blake Cameron James) and Eric (Gian Knight Ramirez) experience the highs and lows of friendship at that age. We know Baig from her debut ‘Hala’ (2019)…

A Match

A Match (Stahl)
Jayant Singh Digambar Somalkar

Savita (Nandini Chikte) is more or less pushed into an arranged marriage, despite her studies and ambitions. Her cotton farmer parents don’t value her education and see her marriage as a way of getting rid of another family member to sustain. Shot with non-actors from Somalkar’s own village of Dongaragaon in Maharastra, it’s clearly a peek into a world that rarely gets screen time, much less a whole film dedicated to a young woman’s future.

A Road to a Village

A Road to a Village
Nabin Subba

Penned by the named director above and Mahesh Rai; the film shows how the modern and the traditional can change almost overnight as a new road gets built linking the village with a city and the modern world – and its perils and pleasures.

The Monk and The Gun

The Monk and the Gun
Pawo Choyning Dorji

Helmed by Oscar nominee ‘Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom’, Pawo Choyning Dorji’s latest work is an ensemble drama that looks at what happened in 2006 when the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan went democratic and dropped its king. A veritable cast of characters have different agendas and there is an American after a 19th century rifle. Described as wise, funny and hopeful.

Unicorns‘ coming to London Film Festival

Also enjoying its world premiere in Toronto is the British film – ‘Unicorns’ – co-directed by Brits Sally El Hosaini and James Krishna Floyd – you can read more about this love story between a straight white Essex guy (Ben Hardy) and an Asian drag queen (Jason Patel)…in our forthcoming London Film Festival preview…

More at
September 7-17

All pictures courtesy of TIFF – except ‘In Flames’ (courtesy of Festival de Cannes)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture