As title sponsor of the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) for the past five years, we have had the privilege to support and showcase an array of thought-provoking independent cinema from across South Asia. LIFF 2019 is certainly one of the strongest years that we have seen and therefore it was extremely difficult to narrow down the five films we highly recommend.
The films presented below, each offer a glimpse into the life of individuals in South Asia set against a backdrop of modern socio-political times. With expectations and traditions being challenged and society rapidly changing, it is these protagonists who invite us to question the impact of sometimes strict societal, governmental and religious regulation on people’s lives, and how ordinary people attempt to navigate these demanding challenges. They confront authority, individualism, identity, dreams and ideology in surprising and inspiring ways.
Article 15 – World Premiere, 20 June, 6:15pm | Picturehouse Central – Tickets
We are excited to present the versatile and in-demand actor Ayushmann Khurrana starring in this highly anticipated police drama Article 15, enjoying its World Premiere at LIFF. The film’s title is a reference to an article of the Indian constitution that prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, race or sex. Based on true events, Khurrana plays a police officer from a privileged, urban background, whose very first posting is to rural north India, where three teenage girls have gone missing. He endeavours to act honestly without discrimination, as per the constitution, but with the existing, deeply entrenched corrupt system, he struggles to make headway. Reflecting on the socio-political landscape of modern India, Article 15 is a timely film by Director Anubhav Sinha. Khurrana called it a movie “which will become the most relevant and important film of Indian cinema”. Watch the trailer here.
Urjojahaj (The Flight) – European Premiere, 23 June, 2:50 pm | BFI Southbank, London – Tickets
Legendary Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta premieres his charming and poignant tale of an idealistic villager, Bachchu, chasing his dreams of flying. A chance discovery of a war plane in the forest sparks an obsession which causes him to neglect his loving and comfortable homelife to live in another world inhabited by storytellers of times gone by. The magic realist quality of Dasgupta’s filmmaking makes for a moving account of what it takes to achieve one’s dreams – from the sacrifice and blind belief to the obstacles and critics. But ultimately The Flight recognises the ghosts that haunt every decision one makes on this journey. Watch the trailer here.
Widow of Silence – UK Premiere, 23 June, 2019 4:00 pm | Barbican, London – Tickets
This moving drama by writer and director Praveen Morchhale has won awards and toured the international film festival circuit since its release in 2018. Set in the beautiful landscape of Kashmir, Widow of Silence highlights the impossible situation for women in this conflict-torn region whose husbands go missing, presumed dead, leaving them as half widows – in limbo with the government and society. Aasiya and her daughter are taunted by their neighbours and classmates whilst struggling to obtain a death certificate. These stories are all too common, and with superb acting from Shilpi Marwaha, Aasiya upends the corrupt bureaucracy through a powerful and unexpected end. Watch the trailer here.
Bulbul Can Sing – 26 June, 2019 6:15 pm, | BFI Southbank, London – Tickets
Award-winning director Rima Das presents a coming-of-age tale of a young girl and her two closest friends in a village in Assam. Touring many international film festivals, Bulbul Can Sing won the Best Performance award at the Singapore Film Festival and the Golden Gateway Award at the Jio Mami Mumbai Film Festival. A moving account of three friends who are each finding their own voice amongst a conservative society that expects them to conform to their usual gender roles. Their innocent lives roaming around the fields ends abruptly after an encounter with the morality police. Through Rima Das’ beautiful gaze and wonderful dialogue, it is a true joy to watch how Bulbul, whose father wants her to be a singer, sings only for herself and discovers what she really wants as she enters adulthood. Watch the trailer here.
Saturday Afternoon – 25 June, 2019 8:30 pm | Barbican, London – Tickets
Screened at the Moscow Film Festival 2019, director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki won two jury awards for this depiction of a terrorist attack on a café in Dhaka – loosely based on the true events in July 2016. The harrowing scenes, shot through one unedited camera which roams around the café as if the viewer is amongst the action, are deftly acted by such stars as Nusrat Imrose Tisha and Parambrata Chatterjee. As the terrorists divide and kill the hostages along religious and ideological lines, the reality of what humans will do to save one another, because of family or custom, becomes clear.