At a time of significant, socio-economic transition in the UK and globally, the world’s longest running South Asian film festival outside India, UK Asian Film Festival, marks its 22nd edition with the theme, Uprooted. The programme will explore themes of migration, displacement and the reinvention of identity in a new environment through a curation of premieres; screenings and events that continue to celebrate the work of women in cinema. In today’s desperate times, in which communities are being uprooted over nationality, ethnicity and religion globally, the festival programme will celebrate the commonalities of humankind, which are currently being forgotten. The films and events will be curated to provoke, challenge and invite new perspectives to our stories by holding up a mirror to society’s values, using wit and characterisation to leave a positive imprint.
UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF), presented by Tongues on Fire and formerly known as London Asian Film Festival before launching nationwide,is synonymous with championing South Asian feminist films and supporting pioneering female artists and auteurs. The festival will run from 25th March – 5th April 2020 in venues across London, Manchester, Leicester, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stockton. UKAFF is supported by a BFI Audience Award, using funding from the National Lottery.
The Opening Gala Presentation will be critically lauded female filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava’s Dolly Kitty And Those Twinkling Stars on Wednesday 25th March, Vue West End, Leicester Square with the director in attendance. Additional screenings will take place at Everyman Manchester, 26th March; Arc Stockton, 27th March; Belgrade Theatre Coventry, 2nd April; and Phoenix Cinema Leicester on 3rd April.
Set in a jagged and dusty, newly developing industrial area on the outskirts of New Delhi, Dolly Kitty And Those Twinkling Stars chronicles the quiet transgression of two female cousins who, through their complicated love-hate equation, enable each other to find freedom. Kitty (Kaajal) is new to the big city. Disillusioned by Dolly’s dysfunctional life, Kitty finds herself working for a dial-in romance app. As she starts to sell romance on the phone, she seeks a love of her own.
Dolly, meanwhile, is grappling with the truth about her marriage and a young son who is starting to identify himself as female. Though trapped, she acknowledges her desire for a young man when she sees her cousin Kitty living it up in the city. As the two cousins transgress to find romance in odd, unexpected places and deal with betrayal and broken dreams, what emerges is that they are women who more than anything want to be independent and free. And that independence and freedom, in the city, comes at a price.
A newly developing city offers a landscape where women (and men) can perhaps live their lives relatively free from strict social codes of older, smaller towns. But when Dolly is confronted with the idea that freedom is hers for the taking, can she seize it? And can Kitty navigate the grey moral compass of how far one can go to be independent? Dolly, Kitty And Those Twinkling Stars seamlessly integrates key issues within its narrative, from female empowerment, defying the patriarchy and interfaith relationships to challenging gender conformity and the trappings of capitalist society, where human beings are commodified and ranked by app star-ratings. Dolly Kitty And Those Twinkling Stars features two of India’s most prolific actresses, Bhumi Pednekar and Konkana Sen Sharma in the titular roles. The film is produced by Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms and distributed by Zee Studios International.
Alankrita Shrivastava is an award-winning feature film director and screenwriter from Mumbai with a penchant for telling women’s stories, exploring the interior world of women through her films. Dolly Kitty And Those Twinkling Stars is Alankrita’s third feature film as writer-director. Most recently, she has co-written and co-directed the critically acclaimed and hugely popular Amazon Prime Original series Made In Heaven (2019).
Alankrita’s second feature film as writer-director, ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2016. It was banned in India for being too honest of a portrayal of women and Alankrita had to fight a long battle to release it in India. It finally released theatrically in India in July 2017 to critical plaudit and commercial success. Acclaimed internationally, Lipstick Under My Burkha has travelled to over 80 international film festivals and has won 18 international awards. Alankrita’s debut feature film as a director and screenwriter, Turning 30, released theatrically in 2011.
Speaking about the Opening Gala film, UK Asian Film Festival Founder and Director, Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry MBE says, “Cinema is incredibly powerful. People may forget the story, or what the characters did, but they will never forget how the film made them feel. And contemporary writers and directors like Alankrita Srivastava make radical films with powerful female protagonists that do not conform to stereotypes of women. Her films amplify the voices of women with nuanced complexities that fiercely celebrate the boundless nature of sisterhood. These films remain with you long after the credits roll.”
In relation to the festival’s theme, Uprooted, UK Asian Film Festival Creative Director, Samir Bhamra says, “Talented filmmakers have captured recent polarising perspectives with powerful antidotes that integrate communities by redefining identity, questioning differences and ultimately celebrating what unites us. Cinema is discovering new powerful narratives that illustrate the resilience of humankind. Quirky, humorous and fragile moments are creating hope for a new generation.”