In 2001, two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, when “then-mayor Rudy Giuliani called on art organizations to hold events so that people would go out rather than sit inside their homes,” the arts organization told the American Indian Arts Council Born Film Festival New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF). Two decades later, when the world was on lockdown, this time due to a virus, festivals around the world have gone digital. For the third year in a row, the New York International Film Festival (NYIFF) will be virtual, from May 7-14 (screening via Shift72; some films will be geo-blocked outside the US). However, there will be an in-person event to screen the closing night’s film, the documentary The Beatles and India (directed by Ajoy Bose and Peter Compton), followed by the awards ceremony.
Speaking of “the oldest Indian film festival in the United States,” says Asim Shubra, a longtime programmer at NYIFF and director of the festival since 2011, “a large percentage of our audience is made up of New Yorkers of different degrees and ethnicities. New York City is home to immigrants. Throughout the year, the city hosts an array of diverse film festivals – Jewish, Irish, African, German, Italian and many more. There is even a Sikh Film Festival.”
In the past, the festival’s premieres have included Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, Slumdog Millionaire, Iti Mrinalini, Gangs of Wasseypur, Ugly, Goynar Baksho, Shahid, Fandry, Aligarh, Mukti Bhawan, A Death in the Gunj, Naked, Sir, Annie Maani Muthun, sticks of cats, Amis, Jamak, Ghar, Nasir, and Nar in the mountains. Chhabra says filmmakers like Mira Nair and Hansal Mehta have cast actors in their films after they first met them at New York International Film Festival events.
This year, NYIFF will have films in 13 Indian languages, including Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, and, for the first time at the festival, Sanskrit. From more than 210 submissions received this year, NYIFF’s six-member film programming team selected 60 films. There are some regulars on the list too, like Bengali directors Aditya Vikram Sengupta (Asha Jaoar Majhe/Labour of Love) who brings Once Upon a Time in Calcutta, and Ranjan Ghosh (Ahaa Re) who will feature Mahishasur Marddini, a meditation on femininity and rape, where he repeats his muse. , Bangladeshi actor Ritubarna Sengupta, who is running the project.
Four major screenings include the opening film Godavari (Marathi), two main pieces: Taangh/Longing (a Punjabi and English documentary) and Shoebox (Hindi), and the closing film The Beatles and India (an English documentary). Programming also includes two family films focused on children, Gandhi & Co. (Gujarati) and Pumbaa Raid (Assamese), and two documentaries celebrating the film’s characters – Kivinama (Kavi Azmi) and If Memory Serves Me Right (film critic Rashid Irani), and 37 shorts, including In it is a collection of seven films (Man and Wife of Rahul Roy, Girlfriend of Mom to Arun Volara, Dal Bhatt of Nimel Shah, etc.) that focus on LGBTQIA+ themes.
“We want our audiences to connect with the films we program and we like to challenge and surprise them, by presenting films that represent new themes, actors and voices. Of the 18 feature films this year, 10 are by first-time directors. And this year, we created an award for First Filmmaker Once the jury is chosen by the circle of film critics of India,” says Chhabra.
Among the 10 debuts, which include Waiting for Dawn / Bhor er Oppekha (Bengali), Deid (Marathi), Powai (Indian), Three-Legged Horse (Marathi), Sanskrit Bhagavadajjukam – directed by Yadu Vijayakrishnan, Which translates to The Hermit and the Prostitute, is based on a seventh-century Sanskrit satirical play in which you see one superiority between two religions – the following five were grabbing eyeballs in the festival circuit:
Produced by Rishab Shetty Films, the critically acclaimed and festival favourite, Natesh Hegde, which premiered in Busan last year but was eliminated by this year’s Bengaluru International Film Festival, is the story of an ordinary man and his extraordinary circumstances in the fertile, village of Karnataka. full of rain, where a wrong act costs him everything; It only represents the fate of those who cannot escape the trappings of an oppressive regime. Hegde’s father, Gopal Hegde who plays the titular role, was nominated for Best Actor, and Hegde was nominated for Best Director at NYIFF.
Shoebox Faraz Ali is set in a spatio-temporal reality when the city of Allahabad Prayagraj, Ali’s shoebox is a gentle lament for his city, before the old world succumbed to the new world. Emotion is not necessarily a bad word. It holds on to the past, the way of life, the one-screen movie theater, and the daughter’s memories of the father as new forces demolish the physicality of the city, which is stuck in its own inner flow. violence. But can memories be erased, or are they sealed in a shoebox and tossed on the back burner? Can violence – the weapon of the morally weak – avenge one’s loss or aid one’s recovery? The film, its lead actor (Amrita Bagshi) and the director are nominated for festival awards.
Jenny Penny Shadaria / The Brittle Thread (Indian)
In his film premiering in Tokyo, Ritesh Sharma’s lens navigates the dark side lanes of Varanasi, that holy city, one of the oldest cities on earth, where people go to rest in an ashram when the end knocks, as corpses are transported to cremation. ghats for a quick ticket to redemption, as sadhus smoke billows in trance, as a dip in the sacred Ganges clears out sins—or so we think. During two minorities’ lives, a weaver (according to his faith) and a street dancer (according to her gender), they both risk everything to make a living. The film highlights the aspects of the city that politics prefers to overshadow. Muzaffar Khan, who plays the weaver, was nominated in the Best Actor category.
Nishiddho / Forbidden (Malayalam, Bengali)
The movie will be a definitive and compelling watch for its heroines. Tanmay Dhanania has proven in his previous works (Cat Sticks, Nazarband, The Rapist) that he is an actor to watch out for and that Kani Kusruti (Biriyaani, Counterfeit Kunkoo, Pada) is a force of nature. With the support of Kerala State Film Development Corporation, Tara Ramanujan trains her lens on the lives of migrant workers in urban Kochi, by recounting forbidden desires and unrequited dreams between a Bengal idol worker whose uncle needs to be cremated, and a Tamil midwife who serves as a funeral priest . What connects them is that they are strangers in the space in which they coexist, but this approaching, on fragile ground, could provide an closure to their story? Both Dhanania and Kusruti were nominated for awards at the NYIFF.
The Road to Kuthriyar (Tamil and English)
Premiered in Busan – where fiction and reality are divided into one another – Bengaluru’s First Road film Bharat Merle explores the relationship between a young urban wildlife researcher, tasked with a “mammal survey”, and his older, rural adult. / Tribal, a “helper” guide who knows the forests and their creatures in the back of his hand. This exploration reveals the myriad complexities of Indian life and the true hallmark of lived experiences: the privilege.