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LA confidential

Christina Marouda, founder the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, with actor Freida Pinto (left) and director Anurag Kashyap.— Photos: Special Arrangement  

t was in the early 2000, while working with the AFI (American Film Institute) Film Fest and the Los Angeles Film Festival, that Christina Marouda realised that there was hardly any serious platform in the USA that showcased contemporary Indian cinema, especially the regional and the indie movies. And not just by audiences, desi or white; it was also the industry professionals in LA. There were films from several countries playing at festivals, but India seemed to have been largely ignored.

“I felt [Indian cinema] was not getting the spotlight and attention it deserved. I felt Indian cinematic voices needed to be heard,” she said.

A sidebar of Indian films in one of the festivals didn’t seem enough to redress the balance, so Marouda founded the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) in 2002 as the one big window to contemporary, groundbreaking Indian cinema in the USA.

She recollects how they opened that year with Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer and closed with Mani Rathnam’s Kannathil Muthamittal . There were some other strong films: Rahul Bose’s Everybody Says I’m Fine , Nagesh Kukunoor’s Teen Deewarein and Ismail Merchant’s The Mystic Masseur among others. “Even in our very first year we started quite strong, we were able to secure a good theatre and had filmmakers come down with their teams.”

IFFLA had positioned itself well and, since then, it has only grown bigger, and has acquired a good reputation for the quality of films and the calibre of filmmakers it gets on stage. Many of today’s reputed filmmakers were discovered at IFFLA. For instance Ritesh Batra’s early short Gareeb Nawaz’s Taxi got shown here much before he became a big name with The Lunchbox . Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday , Nishikant Kamat’s Dombivli Fast , Vishal Bahradwaj’s Maqbool , Nagraj Manjule's Fandry , Bikas Mishra’s Chauranga , Avinash Arun’s Killa , Anand Gandhi’s The Ship of Theseus , Richie Mehta’s Siddharth , Shashanka Ghosh’s Quick Gun Murugun : all these got a platform at IFFLA. As Marouda says, “It has become a showcase to wait for, to see what is coming out of India.”

Though there is no official film market at IFFLA, one of the significant efforts of the festival has been to help the filmmakers meet agents, distributors, and industry officials. All of which helps them advance their careers and in reaching out to the world, and may help them with their future films. And, of course, there’s nothing like it if some of the films get picked up by sales agencies for distribution outside India.

This year at IFFLA seems to be that of debutants and of women filmmakers. There will be of 27 films (16 features and 11 shorts) screened between April 6 to 10 at Arclight, Hollywood.

The festival opens with Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses and closes with Anu Menon’s Waiting . Amongst the films from women directors there will be Deepa Mehta’s Beeba Boys ; Leena Yadav’s Parched , Ruchika Oberoi’s Island City , Rinku Kalsy’s documentary For the Love of a Man , and in the shorts programme, there are Payal Sethi’s Leeches , Megha Ramaswamy’s Bunny , Pritha Chakraborthy’s Ashrut ( Silent Voices ) and Sonejuhi Sinha’s Love Comes Later , among others.

Three films will have their world premiere at the five-day film festival: CRD by Kranti Kanade, Babu’s Dilemma by Collin D’Cunha, and Anurag Kashyap-produced Mochi ( The Cobbler ) by Saqib Pandor. There are two LGBT titles, Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh and Nishant Roy Bombarde’s short Daaravtha ( The Threshold ) and the Tamil cinema section features Vetrimaran’s Visaaranai ( Interrogation ) and Anucharan Murugaiyan’s Kirumi ( Virus ). “Most films this year reflect a strong desire for change in Indian society but the messaging is subtle. None of the films is a downer,” says Marouda.

She feels the presence of Indian films has become better globally, that the industry is attracting attention, and that the market will only grow and improve in the future.

“If you look at Netflix you will find so many Indian films from the last 10 years popping up on it,” she says. And she gives the credit where it is due. For her the Film Bazaar of the National Film Development Corporation at the International Film Festival of India in Panjim, Goa, has been the key. “It is one forum that has made concentrated effort in bringing Indian films on the international radar,” she says. And IFFLA is only helping bridge many more gaps in the years ahead.

Most films this year reflect a strong desire for change in Indian society but the messaging is subtle. None of the films is a downer

The festival opens with Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses and closes with Anu Menon’s Waiting .

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 4:15:14 PM |

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