17th London Asian Film Festival Highlights

Audiences have hailed this year’s edition of the London Asian Film Festival as an unmitigated triumph as it brought together myriad different elements to keep audiences captivated.

Europe’s oldest showcase for independent South Asian cinema successfully married the mainstream with independent cinema and, once again, provided a prominent platform for up-and-coming filmmaking talent whilst celebrating one of the most iconic figures in Indian cinema.

The Festival certainly did “powerful” exceptionally well: opening with the Pakistani drama ‘Dukhtar’ – a harrowing tale on child marriage – and concluded with ‘Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain’, the tragic tale of the world’s greatest industrial disaster.

In between there were plenty of marquee films, not least Shonali Bose’s outstanding drama on disability and sexuality in India, ‘Margarita with a Straw’, and Ketan Mehta’s visual spectacle ‘Rang Rasiya’.

The festival is known for its’ non-film events as well and among the highlights this year was ‘Women in Media’ – a day-long discussion was a nod to the Festival’s commitment to female empowerment and women’s issues, which featured acclaimed filmmaker Nisha Pahuja and  among others.

It wasn’t all terribly serious.

The audience vote overwhelmingly for two events that were true celebrations of the essence of cinema – entertainment.

The masterclasses and ‘Razzmatazz’ events featuring the inimitable Farah Khan and the utterly unforgettable musical tribute on closing night to the legendary Rajesh Khanna by the talented Navin Kundra.

The Festival’s Creative Director Samir Bhamra said: “The magic of the festival is how it marries contemporary with classic and historic as it explores identity, gender and continually transforms the landscape for British and South Asians in London and the regions with a diversity of audiences.

“This year’s festival also attracted a large European visitor income for key events such as the Farah Khan choreography masterclass and sing-along Om Shanti Om- both events are the first of their kind from South Asian cinema and its talent.”

Sponsor Nishi Anand said: “Tongues on Fire are making pathways for young artists experimenting with digital film technologies by creating opportunities to explore new cultural forms that ultimately also educate the wider audience.  The festival also creates a significant platform for talented female film makers and raises the ambitions of young females interested in careers in film and media.”

The Festival’s Founder and Director Dr. Pushpinder Chowdhry said: “The programme was successful in many ways this year, delivered by a fantastic team. I’m looking forward to next year, our 18th birthday, when we will officially be ‘grown up’ and this year’s programme was testament to that journey of coming of age.”

Tongues on Fire, the organizers of the Festival, continues its work throughout the year and has several events planned over the coming months.