Dharamshala — The Dharamsala International Film Festival 2016 (DIFF) concluded on a high note on the 6th of November 2016. It was held at the Tibetan Children's Village School, McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala.The festival had a well curated selection of both, feature films as well as short films.
The programme is curated by Festival Directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. They are joined this year by Associate Director Raman Chawla, filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni (programmer for the Shorts section), and Children's Media Specialist, Monica Wahi (programmer of the Children's Films section).
The programme for 2016 included 43 films, which include 27 feature films (18 narratives and nine documentaries), 15 short films, and one medium docu-fiction. 21 countries are represented and 18 films hadeir India premieres, including two world premieres and one Asian premiere.
The opening film of Day 1 was Raam Reddy's 'Thithi', which received a huge appaluse from the audience. Overwhelmed with the audience response, Raam Reddy, the director of Thithi, who was also present at the screening said, "People braved the conditions, which were sometimes not the most favorable, and I heard a lot of laughter, which made people interact with the story. It's a really warm audience with a warm feeling. This is really just a celebration of cinema."
A film review competition was held for the students of local schools of Himachal Pradesh on 2nd November, 2016. The competition was judged by Monica Wahi, Saibal Chatterjee and Aseem Chabbra.The chief guest for the opening ceremony of DIFF 2016, Urban Development Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Sudhir Sharmaawarded the young students of the local school of Dharamshala.
Day 2 commenced with the screening of five interesting Indian shorts programmed by Umesh Kulkarni including Chaitanya Tamhane's Six Strands, Gurvinder Singh's Ghuspaithiya, Payal Sethi's Leeches, Nishant Roy Bombarde's The Threshold, Siddharth Chauhan's Papa.
Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami's docu-feature Sonita (Iran), which made an Indian premiere at DIFF, received a standing ovation from the full house audience. Other crowd puller films were Boo Junfeng's acclaimed Singapore prison drama, Apprentice, nominated as Singapore's Oscar entry for the foreign language film, Asian premiere of Tenzin Dasel's Royal Café and Bauddhayan Mukherji's dark Hindi comedy, The Violin Player.
The director of A Syrian Love Story (UK) Sean McAllister conducted a master class, attended the audience, which included independent filmmakers, critics, local audience, tourists and movie aficionados. Saibal Chatterjee moderated a panel discussion on the topic "Cinema India: Voices From The Non Hindi Mainstream" with Umesh Kulkarni (Maharshtra), Girish Kulkarni, Bauddhayan Mukherji's (Mumbai), Chittranjan Giri (protagonist of Lathe Joshi) and Sanjeev Kumar (Himachal Pradesh).
As part of DIFF's community outreach programme, screenings were organised in local villages, including Dharamkot, Heini and Rakked, and at the District Jail in Lower Dharamshala. A special screening was held for students from Harmony Through Education—a thriving school for children and young adults with special educational needs—together with students from local mainstream schools.
Other outreach programmes included a film appreciation competition for 20 school students from four local schools, invitations for local schools and colleges to festival screenings, and large-scale community screenings in collaboration with Jagori Rural Charitable Trust.
The 5th Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) 2016 concluded with the screening of three Large Short Films, Anurag Kashyap'sThat Day After Every Day starring RadhikaApte, Adhiraj Bose's Interior Café Night starring Naseeruddin Shah,Shernaz Patel and Naveen Kasturi and Jyothi Kapur Das'Chutney starring AdilHussain.
Apart from getting high on the eclectic mix of films, documentaries and shorts from across the globe, the film enthusiasts enjoyed the engaging and insightful sessions with the veteran filmmaker Saeed Mirza in conversation with Aseem Chhabra: Saeed Mirza Ko Gussa Kyu Aata Hai and the veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah in conversation with Rajeev Masand: Between Art And Industry.
Naseeruddin Shah who attended DIFF for the first time, was accompanied by his wife Ratna Pathak. The veteran actor who came for the screening of his short film, Interior Café Night directed by Adhiraj Bose was all praise for the festival. "I am not a great fan of film festivals and I seldom attend them as I find them too busy and there is too much hot air all around. This is truly the first film festival I have ever been to which I enjoyed. This festival truly is a celebration of cinema rather than a market place where you are trying to hustle. I would love to be back here in future" he said.
Marathi films, Umesh Kulkarni's Highway and Magesh Joshi's Lathe Joshi, Bhutanese film HemaHema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait, Mickey Lemle's documentary, The Last Dalai Lama?, were the crowd pleasers of the day.
A Panel discussion, 'Invisible People: Questions Of Identity and Belonging' with international filmmakers, Pimpaka Towira (genre-twisting Thai road movie The Island Funeral), Boo Junfeng (acclaimed Singapore prison drama, Apprentice, nominated as Singapore's Oscar entry for the foreign language film) and exile Tibetan filmmaker Tenzin Dasel (short docu-fiction, Royal Café in French), Chow Kwun-wai (Omnibus feature narrative, Ten Years) and Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (Iranian docu-feature Sonita) was moderated by DIFF co-director, Tenzing Sonam.
The screening of Vetrimaaran's Tamil drama Visraranai(India's Oscar entry for 2016) was one of the biggest highlights of the festival. Omnibus feature narrative, Ten Years (Cantonese) and The Last Dalai Lama had their Indian premiere at DIFF 2016.