My objective is to support Indian independent filmmakers: Christina Marouda
The Festival Founder and Executive Director of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and Director of Programming, Mike Dougherty, talk about the latest edition of the festival
The 17th Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) kicks off in Beverly Hills next week and runs from April 11 to 14. Highlights for the year include an opening night screening of Sriram Raghavan’s 2018 hit Andhadhun, followed by a tribute and moderated discussion with Tabu. Festival favourites like Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, Anamika Haksar’s Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jay Riya Hoon and Ronny Sen’s Cat Sticks lead the charge for features, while documentaries like Anand Patwardhan’s Reason and short films like Jayisha Patel’s Circle, are slated to jazz up the diverse line-up. Additionally, Ukranian filmmaker Dar Gai’s Namdev Bhau in Search of Silence and Safdar Rahman’s Chippa (starring Sunny Pawar) are spotlighted in this year’s programme, which focuses on showcasing groundbreaking Indian cinema to a global audience.
We spoke to Christina Marouda, Festival Founder and Executive Director, and Mike Dougherty, Director of Programming, about the latest edition of IFFLA, the emergence of Indian filmmakers on the global circuit and the challenges of curating a film festival in the age of digital acquisitions.
The Festival is scheduled to open with a tribute to Tabu. What led to the decision to honour her at IFFLA?
Christina: We do not honour an actor every year. We have been selective in the past, and only embark on this journey if we feel strongly about an artiste. We have been discussing the possibility of honouring Tabu for years, and this year when we watched Andhadhun, we thought it was the perfect timing. She is a unique actor with a very diverse body of work. It's a heavy lift for us to do justice to her and her work, but we are honoured to have the opportunity to do so.
What are the highlights of this year's programme?
Mike: We have crowd-pleasers like the international premiere of Chippa, the world premiere of Megha Ramaswamy’s coming-of-age tale The Odds (also the closing film); we have bold artistic expressions like IFFLA alum Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Jonaki and Ronny Sen’s feature debut Cat Sticks, which won an award at this year’s Slamdance. There’s Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, as well as politically-charged works like Anamika Haksar’s Taking The Horse To Eat Jalebis and Anand Patwardhan’s Reason. To add some Los Angeles flavour, we have UCLA alum Ronak Shah’s Love Goes Through Your Mind, and for the first time we are hosting a panel of Los Angeles-based South Asian talent working in television, which includes high-profile actors like Karan Soni, Kiran Deol and Nik Dodani, as well as behind-the-scenes success stories like the co-creator of Fox’s The Resident, Roshan Sethi.
Which are the new voices you are excited to host this year?
Mike: Some emerging filmmakers we’re welcoming to IFFLA this year include Dar Gai, whose festival hit is sure to draw a happy crowd. There’s Ronny Sen and his excellent young cast bringing Cat Sticks, and of course we have ten short films that represent many new talents, three of which — Neon, The Shaila(s), and Gabroo — are films making their world premieres at IFFLA.
Indian cinema has undergone a transformative shift with the advent of digital platforms. As a festival curator, how to you reckon with this change?
Mike: Well, as a festival programmer, the rise of digital streaming platforms can be scary. So many films get snapped up and put on Netflix or Amazon soon after their world premieres, which can be disappointing to those of us who prefer to discover films in a theatrical setting. Still, I think filmmakers are, by and large, more interested in experiencing their films in theatres with an audience, as that’s how most of us grew to love films in the first place.
You founded this festival in 2003. How do you look back at your association with Indian cinema and culture?
Christina: It’s been incredible. I never had any grand expectations or an agenda when I founded IFFLA. My objective was to create a platform for Indian cinema in the US, support Indian independent filmmakers, educate people about Indian cinema, and connect the diaspora to its routes, culturally. This festival and its legacy have opened so many doors for me, given how the landscape of the appreciation of Indian cinema has changed over the last five years or so.
Your favourite Bollywood film from last year?
Christina: I must say I do not watch many mainstream Bollywood films. I loved Andhadhun.