Friday, April 4, 2014

Indian Film Festival, L.A. (April 8-13, 2014)

Seven, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly;, IFFLA on Facebook, IFFLA
India's Bollywood comes to Hollywood, Indian Film Festival of L.A., April 8-13 (IFFLA)

OM (aum) is the sound of the cosmos (EO)
FAITH CONNECTIONS: Every three years Hindus and yogis and others gather at one of four rotating sites for the Kumbh Mela, the world's largest religious celebrations of faith and devotion, marked by bathing in the sacred waters of the river Ganges. With 100 million participants in 2013, these pilgrimages are said to be the largest organized gatherings on the planet for any single purpose. While never losing site of the enormity and scope of the event, it brings viewers the individuals, sharing their unique stories: How did they come to be here to share in their belief in the divine?

(FC) Every three years 100 million Hindus and others gather at one of four
rotating sites for the Kumbh Mela, a devotional celebration at the Ganges.
Through stories of pilgrims searching for lost children, marijuana-smoking ascetics, adoptive father yogis, mind-bending physical acts, and a special lost boy who dreams of becoming a sadhu (Indian holyman), IFFLA alum Pan Nalin crafts a moving and unique view of the mass gathering. This vision of the ancient tradition  is rarely seen in the West, bringing the Kumbha Mela to human scale. More

But kids?
SOLD: Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jeffrey D. Brown adapts Patricia McCormick’s novel Sold -- a National Book Award finalist about child sex trafficking -- into a vivid, harrowing, and inspiring story of a 13-year-old girl’s resilience in the face of unspeakable cruelty. Young Lakshmi travels to India with the promise of a job and money to send back to her family in Nepal. She quickly learns the terrible truth: she has been sold into prostitution and must work for years to pay back her parents’ debts. While Lakshmi contends with abuse from the brothel’s tyrannical madame and its lustful customers, a nearby activist organization struggles to work against corrupt officials to bring the brothel down. Ultimately, she must resolve not to lose hope and use her wits to escape. More

Kashmir(s) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India
SHEPHERDS OF PARADISE: Nomadic herder Gafoor has to lead his large flock of horses, cows, goats, and sheep across Jammu all the way to the natural wonderland valley of Kashmir (J&K) so they can graze. An already difficult journey of nearly 200 miles done by foot covered in 21 days, Gafoor faces the added challenges of military checkpoints and impenetrable terrain in blinding winter conditions. At 75, Gafoor also carries on a way of life for his family that the young seem less and less interested in following. More

Shorts Program 1 (IFFLA)
LIAR'S DICE: Geetu Mohandas steps behind the lens for a bracing and unforgettable directorial debut, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The film follows the journey of Kamala (Geetanjali Thapi), a woman living and working in a remote Himalayan village with her young daughter Manya.

Kamala's husband -- gone off to work in Delhi -- has been out of contact for several months, and Kamala fears the worst. Determined to find what's happened to him, she gathers Manya (and the family's pet goat) to set off for the city. Hardships ensue, as Kamala struggles with directions, money, and the dangers of being a woman alone in a strange place. She hires a guide -- the unfriendly and possibly criminal wanderer Nawazuddin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), whose interest may lie more in his own personal gain than in any help he can offer others. More

JADOO: Set in Leicester [Lester], England, Amit Gupta’s delicious and delightful comedy charts the chaos that ensues when young Shalini gets engaged to her longtime boyfriend Mark. The fact that Mark is not Indian is the least of Shalini’s concerns. Her father Raja and uncle Jagi have been at war for years. After a big falling out that caused them to close their family restaurant, each man opened his own establishment -- directly across the street from each other!

Shalini’s dream wedding would see both men put aside their differences and prepare the wedding feast together. But resentment runs deep, and neither man can so much as hear mention of the other’s name without a spike in blood pressure. The prospect of disappointing their beloved Shalini -- and the threat of a new, hip restaurant opening in the area -- forces Raja and Jagi to work together, but for how long? In this uproariously funny and heartfelt exploration of family bonds, shared history, and culinary perfection, Gupta’s cast is relentlessly charming. Plus, there’s enough mouth-watering Indian food... More

SKIN DEEP: Sanjay and Sushma plan to elope to escape a looming arranged marriage. They are in love, and their future together shines brightly and perfectly, filled with possibility -- that is, as long as an extra piece of skin that complicates their sex life gets fixed in what should be a routine medical procedure. But Bombay/Mumbai’s electricity gods have other plans in store for them. More 

SIDDHARTH: Barely able to support his family fixing chain zippers, Mahendra is hopeful their lives will improve now that his 12-year-old son, Siddharth [the Hindi form of the Sanskrit name Siddhartha], has found work 200 miles north of Delhi. When the boy fails to return for Diwali, the "Festival of Lights," a few months later, Mahendra and his wife Suman are simply told he ran away. The parents' nightmare is only made worse by indifferent authorities more interested in lecturing them than finding out what happened to their young child. As Mahendra and Suman find out more of the truth, it becomes clear that no one cares what happened to their son but them. More

BOMBAY TALKIES: A quartet of short films celebrates 100 years of Indian cinema in the charming omnibus film featuring work from Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, and Anurag Kashyap -- four of India’s most exciting contemporary directors.

Starlet Katrina Kaif, FHM cover
Each one crafts a tale of ordinary people, whose love of movies profoundly alters the course of their lives: secret lovers who bond over a little girl’s performance of their favorite Bollywood song, an out-of-work father plucked from a crowd to perform a brief role in a Ranbir Kapoor film, a little boy who dreams of being a dancer like the luminous Indian starlet Katrina Kaif, and a son whose ailing father sends him on a quest to receive a blessing from megastar Amitabh Bachchan.

Shorts Program 2 (
The brightest stars of Bollywood invite us to share in the joy, heartbreak, and reverence we feel in a movie theater. Each story beautifully captures how lovers of cinema can’t help but carry that fascination into their day-to-day life. Haven’t we all wished, at one time or another, that our lives were more like a film? (For this selection, admission is restricted to guests 21+).

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