Towards the middle of October, Dharamshala is buzzing with activity as filmmakers and cine descend on the twin towns of McLeod Ganj-Dharamshala for an extended weekend of good cinema. In its third year, the organisers of the Dharamshala International Film Festival (October 30- November 2) are ensuring they put on a good show. “The idea has always been to have a small-intimate festival. We are not in competition with other bigger film festivals in India to show films first,” says Ritu Sarin, co-curator and founder of the festival.
There are over 12 documentaries and 12 feature films for this edition. With a focus on the Middle East, some of the films will look at strife and conflict in Palestine, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon. The Oscar-nominated film in the Best Documentary category from last year, The Square, looks at the Tahrir square revolution in Egypt in 2011; The Return to Homs a Syrian-German film by Talal Derki, on how two young men get pulled into the militia struggle in Homs. “There has never been a particular theme at Dharamshala.
We look to bring films that are doing well at festivals abroad and rarely screened in India. But this year, by default there is a strong refugee theme,” says Sarin, who has introduced five sections for this edition. Among the interesting sections are: a series on animation films and workshops conducted by Gitanjali Rao (of True Love Story fame, which was screened at Cannes Critics week this year); a section on short films curated by Umesh Kulkarni; and a section of films under “Anonymous” category, where the makers are not identified. “This was shown at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York and we felt it would be an interesting theme,” says Sarin.
While the opening and closing films have not been finalised, the organisers have included a fair mix of popular films such as Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi, and Hansal Mehta’s City Lights. This year’s Pakistan entry for the Oscar’s Zinda Bhaag, about three friends from Lahore in search for the fast track route to success, will also be screened.
Head to the hills this October for a cine treat.