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A celebration of world cinema in the hills

The launch of the Dharamshala International Film Festival received an overwhelming response from filmmakers and audiences alike. Srishti Jha reports.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2012 23:07 IST
Srishti Jha

With quaint multi-cuisine cafes, picture-perfect locales, the Dalai Lama in residence, and a famous international cricket stadium, Dharamshala, a small town in Himachal Pradesh remains a popular tourist destination.

But now, the hill station will be a part of the traveller circuit for an added reason.

The first-ever Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF), a celebration of Independent Cinema was held in McLeod Ganj from November 1-4 this year.

Organised by filmmakers Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin of White Crane Films, DIFF, saw 26 independent-film screenings.

The festival began with an artists' workshop where 12 artists from India and abroad gathered to discuss issues of identity, culture and politics while promoting inter-cultural exchange.

Speaking about the festival, Ritu Sarin, director, DIFF said "Our aim was to create a contemporary cultural event in Dharamshala, which would introduce local communities to world cinema and involve their participation. These four days have been thrilling with a variety of films, documentaries, live events and workshops with insightful filmmakers and experts participating in it."

The venues for the event - the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), Club House and TCV Day School saw huge attendance.

The festival opened with a screening of the critically acclaimed film, Shahid by Hansal Mehta, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.

Mehta said, "It is fascinating to see independent cinema being accepted."

The fest ended on November 4 with Ashim Ahluwalia's award winning film, Miss Lovely.

In what is the first edition of the festival, independent films from twelve countries - India, China, Germany, the US, the UK, Egypt, Malaysia, Korea, Israel, Chile, Japan and Portugal - were screened.

Films like Pina, Senna, Yangsi, Vestige of Life, Gattu, 1/2 Revolution, Bunohan, Five Broken Cameras and My Reincarnation got good responses.

Filmmakers who travelled to the festival included Asif Kapadia, Dain Said, Guy Davidi, Jennifer Fox, Umesh Kulkari, Mark Elliot, Hansal Mehta, and Babeth VanLoo.

Other cultural activities such as Tibetan folk performances and animation workshops and filmmakers enhanced the experience.

Volunteers for DIFF included students, working professionals and travellers from around the world.

Shared Malaysian filmmaker, Dain Said, said, "This is my first film festival in India and it's overwhelming to see how the world is here to celebrate cinema."