Rising To The Challenges – Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) 2021

LIFF ICON AWARD Asif Kapadia, Cary Rajinder Sawhney MBE
Great British Asians Asif Kapadia, Hanif Kureishi win ICON awards & feminist film W.O.M.B wins 12th LIFF Audience Award
In the face of numerous challenges, the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival delivered a hybrid event in London, with the sister Birmingham Indian Film Festival coming back to cinemas and the launch of the Manchester Indian Film Festival, which saw an all female programme.
Supported by the British Film Institute (BFI) using funds from the National Lottery, and the London title sponsor the Bagri Foundation, the festival successfully took place in some of the capital’s top cinemas including BFI Southbank, Barbican and Ciné Lumière, attracting a healthy number of audiences, in spite of strict social distancing controls, which also worked extremely well in cinemas like MAC in Birmingham and Everyman in Manchester.
The general feedback was that audiences were excited to be back in cinemas, many for the first time since the very first UK wide lockdown in March 2020.

 Some of the most popular screenings in cinemas were nostalgia packed British South Asian films, notably a sold out My Beautiful Laundrette screening at BFI with Hanif Kureishi delighting the audience in conversation, and Bend It Like Beckham at Rooftop East in Stratford – on its 20th Production anniversary, with Gurinder Chadha in conversation, plus BAFTA winning Rocks director and producer, Sarah Gavron and Ameenah Ayub Allen respectively, who brought back memories of the film adaptation of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane at Genesis in Shoreditch, in close vicinity of famous Brick Lane, London.
Celebrating Great British Asians created a super hit new strand, with pop culture and music, including Mutiny – Asians Storm British Music by MIT Professor Vivek Bald, plus a rare two day programme of the films of Hollywood based British Asian feminist filmmaker Pratibha Parmar (Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, My Name is Andrea Dworkin). The festival had a number of leading British Asian guests including BAFTA, Oscar, Grammy winner Asif Kapadia (Amy), writer Hanif Kureishi (Buddha of Suburbia) and Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji On The Beach).
The festival took the risk of opening with a feature documentary for the first time, with Ajitesh Sharma’s W.O.M.B (Women Of My Billion) which attracted a standing ovation for the film from audiences in London at BFI Southbank and at Birmingham’s Midlands Arts Centre.

 Due to the rise of Covid in India and the rest of South Asia, all Q&As with Indian talent took place online and on the festival’s 4K player www.LoveLIFFatHome.comand included major names including In Conversations with controversial Bollywood director Karan Johar, and scions of Indian cinema stars Kamal Haasan and Sridevi, respectively, Shruti Haasan and Janhvi Kapoor.
18 new films were also premiered on the player and other exclusive content, which included never before seen conversations with behind the scenes stalwarts of the British and Indian film industries including 97 year old Pam Cullen on her work with Satyajit Ray and Charlie Chaplin, and leading British Bollywood distributor Avtar Panesar of Yash Raj Films. 

The BFI Player joined the festival’s cavalcade of “Great British Asians”, by adding a curated programme of their films of this genre, for year round access. BFI Player has also made available some of LIFF’s best of Too Desi Too Queer LGBTQIA+ programme online.
  • Hanif Kureishi – ICON Award
  • Asif Kapadia – ICON Award
  • Karan Johar – ICON Award
  • Shruti Haasan – Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Janhvi Kapoor – Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Audience Award in London & Birmingham – Ajitesh Sharma’s W.O.M.B, Woman Of My Billion
  • Audience Award in Manchester – Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji On The Beach from a woman only screening
  • Most streamed film online at www.loveliffathome.com – Bread & Belonging By Goan woman director, Sonia Filinto
Executive & Programming Director Cary Rajinder Sawhney said: “It’s a testament to a strong team that we have been able to pull off a dynamic festival online and back in cinemas against considerable challenges and we especially thank the cinemas that have helped us find innovative marketing strategies to attract audiences back. Our highlighting of British Asian filmmakers, I’m pleased to say, has created a real buzz with younger South Asian people keen to celebrate our contribution to British cinema and arts. Other new strands like Save The Planet, have also attracted new audiences exploring ecology in the Indian Subcontinental context. Excited to be growing again!”
Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences at the BFI, said: “We’re delighted to have again supported this growing festival, thanks to National Lottery funding, for another successful edition. Congratulations to the whole LIFF team! It was fantastic to see the festival launch in Manchester this year against tough odds, as well as helping to encourage audiences back to the cinema in London and Birmingham. LIFF screenings and talks with British Asian talent at our own BFI Southbank had solid attendance and we were also pleased to provide a selection of Great British Asian films, co-curated with LIFF, on the BFI Player for audiences across the UK. The National Lottery raises over £30 million each week for good causes across the UK.”
Founder of CrossBow Miles, Srishti Bakshi said: “We are humbled to be selected as LIFF’s Audience award. It’s heartening to see that people have connected to the film in such a powerful way. A country is made up of its people and we can change our reality today if we all consider each other equal irrespective of gender, we are more powerful if we are equal. It is a privilege to be able to share the stories of the women of my billion and I hope that this film inspires each of us; men and women, to do our bit and make a difference in our own ways.”

Winner of the short film award for LIFF 2021, Yi Tang, the first woman to win the Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition in the history of the festival, said “It’s such a great honour to receive an award with Satyajit Ray‘s name on it. Black Goat is a coming of age story about a Buddhist nun getting her period for the first time. We made this film in Nepal, working with female crew members from all over the world. I’m overjoyed to be the first female director to receive this award in history and I’m looking forward to more Asian movies coming from female directors. This is our time. Thank you!”

Title Sponsor, Alka Bagri, trustee of the Bagri Foundation said: “We at the Bagri Foundation have this year focussed our support on LIFF’s online screenings and I am pleased to say that the quality and diversity of programming has been quite exceptional. In line with the Bagri Foundation’s ethos, LIFF has showcased the very best of South Asian arts and culture. We are particularly pleased that the festival has now developed its first year round programme online at LoveLIFFatHome.com, reaching audiences UK-wide.”
Tony Matharu, Patron of the London Indian Film Festival, Chairman of Blue Orchid Hotels and Founding Board Member of the Central London Alliance (CIC) said: “As a long standing supporter of culture and the arts, and in particular the value it brings to our unique capital city, I am delighted to support this year’s festival. This year, the hard work of the LIFF team in pivoting its offering and ensuring the festival’s in person production, has been more important than ever as it contributes to the essential agenda of safely welcoming audiences back to London. Whilst I have been part of the festival since its inception, I continue to support LIFF and to advocate for the recovery of London’s arts and cultural sector and the vibrancy, diversity and the rich tapestry of life which has become synonymous with London. LIFF plays a key role in retaining London’s position as the world’s best city in which to be entertained, to visit, work, live and invest in.”
The Producer of W.O.M.B, Apoorva Bakshi said: “It’s an honour to receive the coveted Audience Award for Best Film at LIFF, W.O.M.B is the first Awedacious Original and we are thrilled at the love that it is receiving! Our aim is to share this bold, unusual and compelling film with the widest audiences possible and hope that we can increase awareness on this heartbreaking and very real issue that is faced by millions of women not only in India but world over.”
Notes to editors:
The Bagri Foundation is a UK registered charity, inspired by unique and unexpected ideas that weave the traditional and the contemporary of Asian culture. The Foundation, with its roots in education, is driven by curiosity and a desire to learn, and aims for each project to challenge, engage and inspire. Through a diverse programme of film, visual arts, music, dance, literature and talks, the Bagri Foundation gives artists and experts from across Asia and the diaspora, wider visibility on the global stage.
About the BFI
  • We are a cultural charity, a National Lottery distributor, and the UK’s lead organisation for film and the moving image. Our mission is:
  • To support creativity and actively seek out the next generation of UK storytellers
  • To grow and care for the BFI National Archive, the world’s largest film and television archive
  • To offer the widest range of UK and international moving image culture through our programmes and festivals – delivered online and in venue
  • To use our knowledge to educate and deepen public appreciation and understanding
  • To work with Government and industry to ensure the continued growth of the UK’s screen industries

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.
The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Tim Richards.

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