Dharamshala — More than 500 honored guests and movie lovers filled the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts on Thursday, November 5th for the opening night of the 4th annual Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF).
This year's festival features 37 films from 18 different countries, and the opening night was attended by people from across India who travelled to Dharamshala just for the festival, in addition to special guests and local residents.
First screened was the film Titli, by Indian writer and director Kanu Behl, exploring family life within Delhi poverty. The screening was followed by a question answer with Behl and leading actor Ranvir Shorey.
Festival directors Tenzing Sonam and his wife Ritu Sarin have organized the festival since its conception in 2011, collecting quality international independent films to bring to Dharamshala, a town that does not even have a proper cinema.
Mr Tenzing said in an exclusive interview with the Tibet Post International (TPI) that in creating the DIFF, "the idea was that it would be an international film festival to showcase good international films from around the world, and bring that to Dharamshala so that the people here, Tibetans, Indians, westerners, would have an opportunity to be exposed to this kind of cinema."
He went on to address the placement of Tibetan films in the festival, first stating, "when we started this festival, we wanted to make it very much non political, non culturally specific. We never wanted to make it primarily Tibetan films," later adding, "but of course every year we show Tibetan films. This year we have two documentaries with Tibetan subjects, but are made by non-Tibetans. We have two short films that are also on a Tibetan subject; one of them is made by a Chinese filmmaker, another by a British filmmaker."
The film Tibetan Warrior, a documentary by Swiss filmmaker Dodo Hunziker, will premier in Dharamshala on Sunday at 1pm, and film protagonist Loten Namling spoke with TPI about his personal pleasure in showing the film here, saying, "it's being shown all around the world, but we're so happy that the film is now being shown here in Dharamshala. Dharamshala is my home town, so this is of course something to be proud of."
The film follows Loten Namling as he drags a coffin, symbolizing the death of his people and culture, from Bure to Geneva, Switzerland, a journey that took 53 days. Addressing the difficulties and physical strain of the journey, Mr. Namling said, "it was no so difficult because I was thinking about the difficult situation in Tibet, and compared to that it was insignificant—almost nothing. A bit of a physical strain, but the amount of suffering in Tibet and the self-immolations, keeping all those things in mind it kind of enlightened my journey."
Kaoru Ikeya, renowned Japanese director, will show his film Lungta on Saturday at 3:45pm, a documentary bringing to an international scene the Tibetan self-immolations that continue to happen as a result of the extreme suffering in Tibet. Ikeya told the Tibet Post, "showing this movie in Japan, it raises awareness about the Tibetan issue. So this makes it very fulfilling, very useful. Because many of Tibetan self immolators are appealing for the world to know about their problems, so to spread this to the people, to the Japanese people, this film is very important."
Lungta has been successful in Japan, where it's been running in theaters in Tokyo since mid-July, raising public awareness and gaining media attention. However, Ikeya is looking forward to showing the film here in Dharamshala, adding, "this is the most ideal place to show Lungta, so I'm very happy to show it here and see the reaction of the people."
Dharamshala local, festival volunteer, and aspiring filmmaker Tenzin Phuljung spoke with the Tibet Post about the importance of the festival for local movie lovers, saying, "this event for people like me who love films, creates a very good platform for me to open my eyes to very wonderful films. Most of the stories are untold in Hollywood, Bollywood, within mainstream."
"This is my 4th year participating in this festival, through these experiences, meeting with lots of people from different backgrounds, for me it's like a four day film class, where I meet lots of like-minded people.This festival has really encouraged local filmmakers."
He also added, "we have Tibetan movies at the festival, so this sends a great message for young Tibetans to encourage them to pursue the possibilities of film-making."