The brainchild of yoga, meditation and dance instructors Monika Natraj and Julien Balmer who have invested a lot more than just their time to realize this dream. It has taken a better part of a year to get the project on its feet. Poor sponsorship has meant that Monika and Julien have spent a considerable amount of their own money to give the festival its impetus.
This year's festival focused on 'Celebrating consciousness and creativity in film', a much localised theme according to the organizers. The submissions for the festival have been close to about one hundred however only sixteen films made the cut.
The crowds for the most part have been relatively sparse perhaps brought on by the non central location of TIPA. The festival however found a fairly large non Indian audience which was very surprising because the tickets for Indians/locals were only a third of the price of which was paid by foreign nationals.
A brief introduction was given for each of the films, and then followed by a few instructions. The screening hall did not seem likely to be full, however many late comers began to trickle in well into the first movie. The screening suffered a slight delay with a loss of power, but the generator kicked in and so began the next movie.
Thursday evening saw the screening of 6 films, L'Appel (Belgium), Fierce Light: When Spirit Means Action (Canada), Ubuntu (USA), Dalai Mongol (Mongolia/USA), Living the Love (Malaysia) and Beads on One String (USA/ UK). Each of the films had its own unique interpretation of the festival's theme.
At the end of the festival, the audience members were asked to fill in the ballot for 'The Viewers Choice Awards'. The winner will be announced in due course.
The 1st Dharamsala film festival was like any other film festival except it was under the scenic backdrop of the hills. The added spice of an unusual location made it much more, but unfortunately it was not well received. It is a festival still in its infancy and is likely to be a go to event in the future.