The 12th Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) which started last Thursday and is running through to 4th July is bringing audiences back to the cinemas with a diverse range of LGBTQIA films with the very best of new indie films from the Indian sub-continent and by UK Asians. This year LIFF has evolved into a hybrid festival. You can watch in cinemas in London, Birmingham, and Manchester, or on your own sofa at home, via the digital site www.LoveLIFFatHome.com which is accessible anywhere in the United Kingdom. Some talks and certain events are also accessible worldwide.
The LIFF, supported by the British Film Institute (BFI) using funds from the National Lottery, opened on Thursday with the gala premiere of W.O.M.B. (Women of My Billion), an inspirational feature documentary telling of one woman, Srishti Bakshi, who walks the entire length of India (nearly 4,000 kms), over 240 days to explore the experiences of other women in its billion plus population.
LGBTQIA on screen representations and debates included last night’s screening of the much loved 80s classic My Beautiful Laundrette which included a live Q&A with writer Hanif Kureshi.
Legendary Lesbian activist and filmmaker Pratibha Parmar presents in person a range of her documentaries on British Asian arts and culture including a rare early interview with award-winning gay photographer Sunil Gupta.
Director Gurinder Chadha introduces the 20th anniversary screening of Bend It Like Beckham, with its gay coming out characters. LIFF’s ever popular “Too Desi Too Queer” shorts programme is back at Cinema Lumiere in Kensington with new shorts premieres from Pakistan and India and with a mental wellbeing panel.
Bollywood superstar director Karan Johar talks about his sexuality and bringing up his children on the festival’s LoveLIFFatHome.com. Winding up the Cinema Lumiere marble staircase again is a chance to dress up for the super camp splendour of Bolywood classic film Mughal-E-Azam – think, sumptiously dressed men, dancing girls and transvestites galavanting around a mirrored palace, with Indian gay icon actress Madhubala at its heart. What’s not to love!
Another highlight of the festival is a special focus on British Asian filmmakers and their continued contribution to British cinema’s success, while often depicting realistic stories of British Asian immigrant experience. Even BFI Player is supporting LIFF with a special best of the “Too Desi Too Queer” programme, being uploaded during the festival.
Festival Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney MBE said: “As one of the UK’s leading diversity film festivals we have been championing Asian LGBTQ+ films long before the legalisation of gay people in India. In other parts of South Asia of course, we are still illegal, so many of our films are a salute to these brave filmmakers and communities. We are also showing the rarely seen revolutionary British documentaries from the 1980s and 1990s where questions of identity and sexuality within the British Asian communities were still being hotly debated, so there’s many different viewpoints on the LGBTQIA experience for this Pride Month”.
This year’s other highlights include on stage Special In Conversations which started last night with British screenwriter Hanif Kureshi (My Beautiful Laundrette) and will be followed by Oscar and BAFTA-winning director Asif Kapadia (Senna, Amy, The Warrior) at BFI Southbank, legendary director Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji On The Beach), alongside the 20th anniversary of the making of her Bend It Like Beckham, and British change-maker feminist filmmaker Pratibha Parmar (The Colour of Britain, Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth) at the Barbican.
The festival also celebrates epochal Indian heroes with the premiere of feature documentary Ahimsa: Gandhi The Power of the Powerless and celebrates India’s greatest director Satyajit Ray on his 100th birth anniversary plus In Conversation events online with Bollywood hitmaker Karan Johar, pan Indian actress Shruti Haasan and young achiever, Janhvi Kapoor.
One of Ray’s greatest actors, the late Soumitra Chatterjee is also profiled in the premiere of Abhijaan, while light-hearted moments are brought with the premieres of Bengali drama Searching For Happiness and black comedy Ashes On A Road Trip. The Tiger Award winner at the 50th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Koozhangal (Pebbles) in Tamil, makes its UK debut at the cinema, as does Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Kayattam (A’hr) in Malayalam, starring one of South India’s most decorated actresses, Manju Warrier. Iram Parveen Bilal’s Narrative Feature Grand Jury Award nominee at South By Southwest in 2020, I’ll Meet You There, examines the immigrant life of a Pakistani American family in Chicago, USA.
The Festival’s new strand dedicated to ecology-related films, called “Save The Planet”, brings stirring features that in different ways reflect lives affected by deforestation and rising sea levels, and how people are meeting the challenge. As Bangladesh marks the 50th anniversary of its independence, LIFF celebrates the country’s giant strides in global cinema with special screenings of the lyrical The Salt in Our Waters.
Films are in languages like Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Urdu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati et al, all with English subtitles. All “In Conversation” events are in English, both on stage and at www.loveliffathome.com
Ben Luxford, Head of UK Wide Audiences at the BFI, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting the festival again this year. Thanks to National Lottery players we’re able to help bring this exciting programme to cinemas and households across the UK. The focus on British Asian filmmakers this year is a particular highlight.”
Title Sponsor, Alka Bagri, trustee of the Bagri Foundation said: “It has been a difficult year for many these past 12 months, and we are pleased to support a little escape for you via LIFF’s hybrid festival this year. Our seventh year as title sponsor showcases classic films and Q&As, as well as a range of UK premieres from some top British Asian and South Asian talent. Whether you attend in person, or watch from the comfort of your sofa, we hope you feel as excited as we are to see fresh faces and legendary stories from across Asian cinema!”
LIFF “In Conversation” Events
– In Conversation with Oscar, Grammy Award, BAFTA winning British film maker Asif Kapadia – Live Q&A on stage at the BFI Southbank, Saturday 19th June, 20:10
– In Conversation with Gurinder Chadha OBE – Saturday 25th June, 20:45, Rooftop East Stratford, celebrating the iconic British BAFTA nominated film Bend It Like Beckham at its 2 decade production mark.
– In Conversation With Bollywood stalwart Padma Shri Karan Johar Online at LoveLIFFAtHome.com
– In Conversation With Pan Indian actress and musician Shruti Haasan Online at LoveLIFFAtHome.com
– In Conversation with actress Janhvi Kapoor Online at LoveLIFFAtHome.com
– In Conversation with Pam Cullen and Nasreen Munni Kabir celebrating the birth centenary of Satyajit Ray at LoveLIFFAtHome.com
– In Conversation with Avtar Panesar of Yash Raj Films, about the rise of Bollywood in Britain at LoveLIFFAtHome.com