Rajukummar Rao, Poonam Dhillon and Shabana Azmi among those who spoke at final event of UKAFF (May 4-14)
A HOST of stars came out on the final day of the UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) to celebrate its 25th Silver Jubilee edition.
Among the highlights was iconic actor Shabana Azmi talking about how the festival started with nothing more than a conversation between current director Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry MBE and Harvinder Nath.
Dr Chowdhry has taken the festival to yet greater heights and Sunday’s star-studded ceremony was testament to her creative efforts and dedication over the years.
As well as Azmi and husband lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar in attendance, there were short Q&A sessions with Bollywood icons Rajkummar Rao and Poonam Dhillon and a host of awards were presented by the UKAFF in a ceremony hosted by ‘Peaky Blinders’ actor Jassa Ahuluwalia.
A film about the 20th century dancer Uday Shankar with many contemporary voices from the dance world such as Akram Khan and Vidya Patel entranced the audience at the Closing Ceremony.
Called ‘A Meeting of Cultures’ it is a 50-minute heritage film marking the centenary of the start of an iconic collaboration between Prima Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, and renowned Indian dancer, Uday Shankar, from their first performance at Royal Opera House in London in 1923.
The highlight of the festival for www.asianculturevulture. com was our sponsorship of the only British feature film to screen at the festival this year.
First time director Nathalie Syam has made a powerful film that serves to insert humanity back into the raging political debate about migration. Adil Hussain delivers a fine performance as the tormented Raghu whose only wish is to secure his and family’s existence and make their way back to the Kerala they had to leave behind – incidentally Syam’s family’s own place of origin.
Raghu’s fragile hopes are shattered when his daughter goes missing – but it is only the start of his problems as the film so skilfully depicts.
Our interviews with the talent from this film (see below) mark what we hope will be a significant and powerful intervention against the dehumanising rhetoric that seeks to portray outsiders as a threat to British life.
We were thrilled to help bring such a film to UKAFF and help to to promote it and we wish the team behind it – The Headquarters Production Ltd, every success with it. It has already garnered two film festival awards and looks set to get people talking and discussing the subject with greater understanding and sympathy, we hope.
The theme of this year’s festival was “celebrating our stories” and this year’s films, including ‘Kamli’ which acv saw, pay special attention to the marginalised and voiceless – in this case Sarmad Khoosat’s drama about two women trapped in a bind – with one waiting for her husband to return home after many years and her blind sister-in-law pulling a strong emotional card – never to be left alone.
‘Dr Chowdhry re-iterated her commitment to bringing the voices of those not normally heard, saying: “This year, our selected films have powerfully opened our hearts and minds because of how they capture and narrate our experiences authentically. We consciously mainstream South Asian perspectives, told by South Asians for global audiences so our stories inform and transform communities.”
Samir Bhamra, artistic director UKAFF added: “Our British Asian and South Asian filmmakers have crafted exquisite and authentic stories that vulnerably exposed the most hideous parts of our nature. In doing so, they illuminated our brokenness, showed us the essences that bind us and filled us with hope that we can learn to accept and begin to heal.”
The festival originally started as Tongues on Fire and as a festival created to promote and showcase women filmmakers and themes.
Tongues on Fire Flame Award 2023 winners:
Best Short Film: Madhavi – Director, Jacintha Charles
Film Wallahs Choice Award: Polite Society – Director, Nida Manzoor
Celebrating Our Stories Theme: Nathalia Syam – Footprints on Water
Best Film, Curator’s Choice: Kamli – Director, Sarmad Khoosat
Best Documentary: Trans Kashmir
Best Debut Director: Manish Mundra – Siya
Contribution to Hindi Cinema: Poonam Dhillon
Best Director: Sudhanshu Saria – Sanaa
Making Waves Globally: Adil Hussain – Footprints On Water
Best Actor: Radhika Madan – Sanaa
Best Film: Bhagwan Bharose – Director, Shiladitya Bora
Championing Change: Nimra Bucha
Lifetime Achievement Award – Contribution to Global Cinema: Jamil Dehlavi
Trailblazer: Rajkummar Rao
The British Council this year commissioned a collaboration between UK Asian Film Festival and Indus Valley School of Arts & Architecture, entitled Re-imagining Freedom – Space to Reflect. Pakistani and British Pakistani artists were invited to create short films that were screened during the festival, each of whom were awarded a certificate on behalf of British Council at the Closing Gala. The artists were:
Omar Kent for The Dandies Of Albertopolis
Humira Imtiaz for Rootless Connection, An AI Experiment
Kuldeep Khatri for Vachan
Sameen Ali for Hania
Nirmal Bano for Republic Of Wailing Trees
Lead photo: Group shot of TOF Flame winners and celebrities – all pictures courtesy of UKAFF
Footprints on Water – our interviews before the European Premiere of the film at The Kiln in North London on Saturday, May 13.
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