London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) returns this month for its fifth edition. It boasts a starry line-up of films extending far beyond Bollywood, from independent cinema to glossy Disney productions.
The festival opens with Sold, adapted from Patricia McCormick’s young adult novel about a young Nepali girl who is forced into prostitution, and the US photographer (played by Gillian Anderson in the film) who spearheads a dangerous campaign to help her escape. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Jeffrey D. Brown and Anderson.
Perhaps LIFF’s most high profile screening is Million Dollar Arm, a Disney production in which a sports agent travels to India in the hope of uncovering a new baseball star. With familiar faces Jon Hamm, Alan Alda and Life Of Pi’s Suraj Sharma, it promises cosy family entertainment.
For those looking for something more serious, Munsar Ali’s Shongram stars Asia Argento as a British journalist interviewing a British Bangladeshi Muslim about his love for a young Hindi woman during the War of Independence.
Similarly rooted in a very specific moment in the Indian subcontinent’s past is Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost. It’s the story of a rural Sikh dispossessed from his homeland by the Partition of 1947. Irrfan Khan plays a father so determined to have a son and heir, he hides the true identity of his fourth daughter, Kanwar, forcing her to live as a male. Tillotama Shome has already received plaudits for her performance as the older Kanwar, and the film is said to be a fascinating insight into patriarchal oppression and adolescent sexual awakening. Finding the personal in the historical is a common enough theme of filmmakers, but the cross-section of voices here has been touted as exceptional.