Birmingham Indian Film Festival 2018

Raj Baddhan

Senior Editor


Birmingham Indian Film Festival is a cinematic treasure trove of carefully curated premieres of South Asian independent films, offering rare glimpses into some of the billion plus lives in the sub-continent.

The festival is presented by the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival and returns for its fourth consecutive year at Cineworld Broad Street, mac Birmingham and The Mockingbird Cinema & Kitchen from Friday 22nd June to Sunday 1st July.

Audiences can expect a spectacular 10 days of Midland premieres of feature films, documentaries and shorts exploring a compelling slate of controversial, entertaining and thought-provoking themes with global resonances, plus lively Q&As and panel debates.

New to this year is the annual LIFF Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition Entries showcasing the work of emerging film makers.

We are pleased to welcome aboard new major sponsors Birmingham City University and Birmingham Airport who join the list of supporters including Asian Business Chamber of Commerce, Film Birmingham, Film Hub Midlands, Sampad and Zindiya. The festival also receives grant support from the BFI’s National Lottery Audience Fund.

Opening night
The festival helmer, with an all-star Hollywood and Bollywood cast including Demi Moore, Freida Pinto, Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Richa Chadda, Anupam Kher, Adil Hussain, Sunny Parwar and Mrunal Thakur, is the Birmingham Premiere of Love Sonia, from the Academy nominated producer of Life Of Pi, David Womark. A compelling story of two loving sisters, who are forced into the sex industry in Mumbai. Main protagonist Sonia is sustained by a fragile dream that is worth surviving for, her searing journey spans three continents and a lifetime of experiences that no young girl should have. Sonia is determined not to become one of the 800,000 women and children who are victims of the international sex trade industry every year.

The director Tabrez Noorani, who was previously line producer on the multiple Academy, BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Slumdog Millionaire, and films like Zero Dark Thirty, and talent, are expected at Cineworld, Broad Street on Friday 22nd June.

Closing night
The Festival closes at mac Birmingham with Venus – a feel-good comedy about a Canadian Punjabi transgender person who is about to embark on surgery but suddenly discovers they are the father of a teenage boy who thinks they are the coolest dad on the planet. The director Eisha Marjara and talent are expected on Sunday 1st July.

Local Talent
Wolverhampton-born actor Antonio Aakeel stars in the feel-good British-comedy Eaten by Lions written and directed by Jason Wingard. The film also stars Jack Carroll, Johnny Vegas, and Asim Chaudhry. Eaten by Lions is the feature-length adaptation of the director’s 2013 short film ‘Going to Mecca’ which won best comedy at the Manchester International Film Festival. The film follows half-brothers Omar and Pete as they embark on a journey to find Omar’s estranged father, confronting him on the day of his daughter’s engagement party.

Students from Birmingham City University including the School of Media will be working on the festival; volunteering, managing screenings and creating digital content and Professor Rajinder Dudrah will lead a panel debate exploring independent Indian cinema.

Festival Strands
In the centenary year since some women got the right to vote, ‘The Female Eye’ showcases the work of exciting female filmmakers who offer very fresh stories and alternative cinematic styles in South Asian cinema.

The multi-award-winning Village Rockstars is a joyous mother-daughter story about a freethinking village girl who dreams of being a rock guitarist, with Q&A by director Rima Sen. While Teen Aur Aadha (Three and a Half) is an envelope pushing compilation of three, dramatic tales of modern Mumbai shot in three and a half takes. British Bengali director Sangeeta Datta’s mesmerisingly beautiful Bird of Dusk examines the inner life of the late, great Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. These and other women filmmakers highlight some of India’s most original, cutting edge film talents.

‘Fathers & Sons’ is also a powerful theme running through this year’s festival, with films that explore Indian father and son relationships, from which boys learn their first lessons about masculinity. This role model has good sides and bad including toxic masculinity, which can lead to violence against women. In The Shadows is a dark, agoraphobic debut by Dipesh Jain that depicts a ten-year-old’s story of struggling with a wife-beating father in an old Delhi chawl, starring the versatile Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee (Aligarh), who is expected at the festival. By contrast, the raucous, British comedy Eaten By Lions has Bradford teenager Omar and his half-brother searching for his real Asian dad on the streets of Blackpool.

‘Extra-Ordinary Lives’ is a strand of films exploring everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. My Son is Gay is a much-lauded Tamil drama from South India while Doob (No Bed of Roses) is a Bangladesh-India co-production starring Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire). Grand Prix winner at Montreal Film Festival is the charming, family film Halkaa about a slum living boy who, instead of defecating on the rail lines, dreams of having his own private toilet and his eventful mission to try to get one built. The Song of Scorpions is set in the deep deserts of Rajasthan, where a lone camel herder played by Irrfan Khan (The Lunch Box) is obsessed by a magical, female healer who has the power to sing away scorpion bites, played by Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly).

Festival Shorts
The annual London Indian Film Festival Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition Entries will be screened in Birmingham for the first time. The programme is a rare chance to see the works of talented, emerging filmmakers, who are exploring themes of South Asian experience.

Festival director Cary Rajinder Sawhney says, “One great thing about being in the UK and especially London is that we are culturally intertwined to India and South Asia, not just through our shared history but our living, everyday experience where South Asian communities add so much to UK cultural life, of which cinema is an important aspect. This cutting-edge festival showcases indie cinema that entertains but shows the more realistic and sometimes the raw side of South Asian culture but, at the same time, there are always stories of comedy, hope and the un-exhaustible energy of over 1.3 billion South Asian lives from the Indian subcontinent.”