A film festival in the hills

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The third annual Dharamashala International Film Festival (DIFF) took place in bustling McLeodganj between the 30th of October and 2nd November this year.

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DIFF is curated and organized by Ritu Sarin and Tenzin Sonam as a platform for contemporary independent cinema with a focus on encouraging young Indian and Tibetan filmmakers. Renowned filmmakers in their own right, Ritu and Tenzin have been making movies together since the early 80s.

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Opening night was headlined by the screening of Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi, followed by a short Q & A session with him. Over the next three days, films were screened at two venues most of the time leaving the viewers spoilt for choice.

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There were also interaction sessions with some of the filmmakers which led in to interesting discussions on their personal processes and gave the audience an insight into the artist’s process.

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One of the biggest crowd pullers at DIFF this year was Khyentse Norbu’s Vara: A Blessing. This visual treat portrays the story of a young devadasi (played by Shahana Goswami) who falls in love with a low-caste sculptor in her village. Shot in serenely beautiful rural Sri Lanka, the narrative blurs between the real and the fantastical as it draws the viewers into a subtle world of temptation and transcendence.

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Through the festival the atmosphere was abuzz with people passionately arguing about their favourites while lining up in queues.

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Aspiring and young filmmakers as well as plain old movie buffs had travelled from all over the country to make it for the festival. Through all of this, DIFF was backed by a band of diligent volunteers who saw to it that everyone was having a good time.

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In a chat with Ritu and Tenzin, both emphasised how heartening it was to see the festival grow bigger every year. We at Anveshan couldn’t agree more because it’s exciting to see such initiatives provide opportunity for narratives outside the mainstream.


Text and photographs: Gayatri Ganju