Five must-see movies at London Indian Film Festival 2021

The Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival is back this year in hybrid form and we are title sponsors again, specifically supporting the online element. The team and trustees share our top 5 picks which we are most excited to watch online. Have a look at the summaries, our thoughts and details below and get your tickets at the links shared. 

Find the Full Programme for LIFF London here.

Summary: Among the arid lands of Rajasthan, surrounded by marble mines lies the oasis-like village of Piplantri, where women are no longer worried about giving birth to a girl, who historically would have been seen as a burden. Since 2005, a small group of activists have changed society and now every time a girl is born in the village, the residents celebrate the occasion by planting 111 trees in her name. Sisters of the Trees is the intimate story of these brave women and the positive changes and challenges they face trying to raise their daughters for a better future, deeply connected to environmental conservation.

Our thoughts: We’ve heard amazing things about this documentary. The true story of this village and how they turned their blessing of giving birth to a girl into an environmental activist project is incredibly uplifting. The producers say, “Where there was only mining waste, lack of water and violence against women — today there is greenery, drinking water, literacy and ample employment opportunities for the locals.” This is one to give us hope, and belief that one small act, multiplied, can make a huge difference over the years. 

Summary: In a north Indian village, a large extended family reunites at their ancestral home to celebrate a new birth in the family. It’s a joyous and carefree occasion. Over the next two decades, through festivals and feasts, births and deaths and with children moving away to the city, the film observes the house age and fall into neglect with the passing of time. Achal Mishra’s astonishing debut feature film is the most intimate of epics, beautifully exploring the ebb and flow of family life in an ever-changing world.

Our thoughts: We are especially keen on the idea of travelling through time via the life of one house. The cinematography looks stunning and the portrayal of major moments of the family’s life is universal. To place an emphasis on the place within which memories are stored, is an exciting and simple premise, and we can imagine feeling emotional over the state of the house as it falls into disrepair. We can’t wait to tune into this one, and probably need keep the tissues nearby!

Summary: Acclaimed actor Adil Hussain (Life of Pi, Star Trek), plays Shem, an out of work, self-styled detective with a sharp sense of the streets. Shem is offered an escape from his humdrum investigation work when he is suddenly asked to investigate the disappearance of an object of great cultural value. Navigating the narrow streets and dark alleys, Shem’s journey takes him into the heart and soul of Shillong, where the city’s unique political, racial and cultural identity soon complicate his investigation and even threaten his life.

Our thoughts: We would watch any film that stars the incredible Adil Hussain, but this is his first Khasi language film, referencing an important cultural wave called the #khasinewave. The director Wanphrang K Diengdoh is young, and as a filmmaker and musician, the soundtrack is sure to be incredible. His track record in portraying tribal identity and border politics through film, especially in the Northeast region of India, gives good credence to the promise of this film. Not to be missed!

Summary: A heartfelt documentary following director Madhulika Jalali as she searches for her identity as a Kashmiri Pandit woman. In the early 90s, six-year-old Madhulika and her family fled Rainawari – a quaint suburb of Srinagar – in response to Kashmir’s separatist insurgency. Twenty-four years later with no memory of her birthplace, she returns to visit her lost home with her family. Weaving together impromptu conversations, family anecdotes and stunning footage from the streets of Rainawari where she is welcomed back by her childhood neighbours, Ghar Ka Pata reveals deep and personal connections that go beyond religion and politics. 

Our thoughts: We are particularly interested in seeing this documentary as the focus on identity from the perspective of a Kashmiri Pandit woman is rare to see shown on film. It is an important story to tell, of families who were forced out of Kashmir, especially through the eyes of Madhulika who returns as a tourist, but is really searching for herself and her home. For anyone who has tried to find and understand their ‘roots’, this is for you. 

Summary: Set in the small but vibrant Indian state of Goa, Sonia Filinto’s documentary tells a heart-warming story of food, culture and migration through the lens of Goa’s most famous bread, pão. The film follows Alzira and her family who have been quietly following their love for baking for generations, but are nowadays struggling to keep their business alive in a changing world. With the arrival of new workers from outside Goa, the family are stirred up into a mission to bring pão back to its former glory.

Our thoughts: Here is another documentary which we are keen to watch. With our recent project Bites for Mubi focusing on Asian food, this film is right up our street! The Director Sonia Filinto shines a light on the rapidly changing state of Goa, a renowned tourist hotspot, with her gaze firmly on the plight of bakers who are leaving the trade in droves. She says ‘In an intimate society such as Goa, bread is a tool to stake claim to belong.’ Bread & Belonging asks, how does the mixture of current migration and remnants of colonialisation impact the traditional identity of Goa?

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