Europe’s largest Indian film fest is returning to Birmingham this summer for its fourth year in the city.

The Birmingham Indian Film Festival – known as BIFF – is a cinematic treasure trove of carefully curated premieres of South Asian independent films, offering rare glimpses into some of the billion plus lives in the sub-continent.

The festival is presented by the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival and returns for its fourth consecutive year at Cineworld Broad Street, mac Birmingham and The Mockingbird Cinema & Kitchen from Friday 22 June to Sunday 1 July.

Audiences can expect a spectacular 10 days of Midland premieres of feature films, documentaries and shorts exploring a compelling slate of controversial, entertaining and thought-provoking themes with global resonances, plus lively Q&As and panel debates.

New to this year is the annual LIFF Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition Entries, showcasing the work of emerging film makers.

Partnering with the event in Brum are Birmingham City University and Birmingham Airport, who join supporters including Asian Business Chamber of Commerce, Film Birmingham, Film Hub Midlands, Sampad and Zindiya. The festival is also backed by the BFI’s National Lottery Audience Fund.

'Love Sonia' will be launching the Birmingham Indian Film Festival 2018Kerry Monteen / Womark/Noorani Productions
‘Love Sonia’ will be launching the Birmingham Indian Film Festival 2018

Opening night launch with ‘Love Sonia’

The festival helmer, with an all-star Hollywood and Bollywood cast including Demi Moore, Freida Pinto, Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Richa Chadda, Anupam Kher, Adil Hussain, Sunny Parwar and Mrunal Thakur, is the Birmingham Premiere of Love Sonia, from the Academy nominated producer of Life Of Pi, David Womark.

A compelling story of two loving sisters, who are forced into the sex industry in Mumbai. Main protagonist Sonia is sustained by a fragile dream that is worth surviving for, her searing journey spans three continents and a lifetime of experiences that no young girl should have. Sonia is determined not to become one of the 800,000 women and children who are victims of the international sex trade industry every year.

The director Tabrez Noorani, who was previously line producer on the multiple Academy, BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Slumdog Millionaire, and films like Zero Dark Thirty, and talent, is expected at Cineworld, Broad Street on Friday 22 June.

The Festival closes at mac Birmingham with Venus - a feel-good comedy about a Canadian Punjabi transgender personCompass Productions
The Festival closes at mac Birmingham with Venus – a feel-good comedy about a Canadian Punjabi transgender person

Closing night gala with ‘Venus’

The Festival closes at mac Birmingham with Venus – a feel-good comedy about a Canadian Punjabi transgender person who is about to embark on surgery but suddenly discovers they are the father of a teenage boy who thinks they are the coolest dad on the planet. The director Eisha Marjara and talent are expected on Sunday 1 July.

Birmingham-based actor Antonio AakeelMichael Shelford

Local talent

Wolverhampton-born actor Antonio Aakeel stars in the feel-good British-comedy Eaten by Lions, written and directed by Jason Wingard. The film also stars Jack Carroll, Johnny Vegas, and Asim Chaudhry.

Eaten by Lions is the feature-length adaptation of the director’s 2013 short film ‘Going to Mecca’ which won best comedy at the Manchester International Film Festival. The film follows half-brothers Omar and Pete as they embark on a journey to find Omar’s estranged father, confronting him on the day of his daughter’s engagement party.

BCU School of Media

Students from Birmingham City University including the School of Media will be working on the festival; volunteering, managing screenings and creating digital content and Professor Rajinder Dudrah will lead a panel debate exploring independent Indian cinema.

Festival Strands

In the centenary year since some women got the right to vote, ‘The Female Eye’ showcases the work of exciting female filmmakers who offer very fresh stories and alternative cinematic styles in South Asian cinema.

The multi-award-winning Village Rockstars is a joyous mother-daughter story about a freethinking village girl who dreams of being a rock guitarist, with Q&A by director Rima Sen.

While Teen Aur Aadha (Three and a Half) is an envelope pushing compilation of three, dramatic tales of modern Mumbai shot in three and a half takes. British Bengali director Sangeeta Datta’s mesmerisingly beautiful Bird of Dusk examines the inner life of the late, great Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. These and other women filmmakers highlight some of India’s most original, cutting edge film talents.

‘Fathers & Sons’ is also a powerful theme running through this year’s festival, with films that explore Indian father and son relationships, from which boys learn their first lessons about masculinity. This role model has good sides and bad including toxic masculinity, which can lead to violence against women.

In The Shadows is a dark, agoraphobic debut by Dipesh JainExstant Motion Pictures
In The Shadows is a dark, agoraphobic debut by Dipesh Jain

In The Shadows is a dark, agoraphobic debut by Dipesh Jain that depicts a ten-year-old’s story of struggling with a wife-beating father in an old Delhi chawl, starring the versatile Indian actor Manoj Bajpayee (Aligarh), who is expected at the festival. By contrast, the raucous, British comedy Eaten By Lions has Bradford teenager Omar and his half-brother searching for his real Asian dad on the streets of Blackpool.

‘Extra-Ordinary Lives’ is a strand of films exploring everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. My Son is Gay is a much-lauded Tamil drama from South India while Doob (No Bed of Roses) is a Bangladesh-India co-production starring Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire).

Grand Prix winner at Montreal Film Festival is the charming, family film Halkaa about a slum living boy who, instead of defecating on the rail lines, dreams of having his own private toilet and his eventful mission to try to get one built. The Song of Scorpions is set in the deep deserts of Rajasthan, where a lone camel herder played by Irrfan Khan (The Lunch Box) is obsessed by a magical, female healer who has the power to sing away scorpion bites, played by Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly).

Festival Shorts

The annual London Indian Film Festival Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition Entries will be screened in Birmingham for the first time. The programme is a rare chance to see the works of talented, emerging filmmakers, who are exploring themes of South Asian experience.

Cineworld cinema is one of the venues supporting the Birmingham Indian Film Festival screeningsAdam Yosef
Cineworld cinema is one of the venues supporting the Birmingham Indian Film Festival screenings

Where to watch the films…

Cineworld Broad Street, mac Birmingham and The Mockingbird Cinema & Kitchen will all host the festival. Tickets can be purchased directly from the cinemas.

What they’re saying…

Festival director Cary Rajinder Sawhney says:

“One great thing about being in the UK and especially London is that we are culturally intertwined to India and South Asia, not just through our shared history but our living, everyday experience where South Asian communities add so much to UK cultural life, of which cinema is an important aspect.

“This cutting-edge festival showcases indie cinema that entertains but shows the more realistic and sometimes the raw side of South Asian culture but, at the same time, there are always stories of comedy, hope and the un-exhaustible energy of over 1.3 billion South Asian lives from the Indian subcontinent”

Indian cinema expert and Professor of Cultural Studies and Creative Industries at Birmingham City University’s School of Media, Rajinder Dudrah, said:

“Birmingham City University is delighted to be a headline sponsor of this year’s Birmingham Indian Film Festival and join in the celebrations of South Asian history, heritage, arts and culture. The 10-day event will feature a host of inspirational films created by some of the finest creative professionals. We look forward to the films being showcased to generate discussion as well as to entertain.”

FULL BIFF FILMING LISTINGS

OPENING NIGHT GALA

Womark/Noorani Productions

‘Love Sonia’

Midlands Premiere. 120 mins, Recommended Cert 15

English, Hindi, Cantonese with English subtitles, India 2018.

Director: Tabrez Noorani.

With: Mrunal Thakur, Freida Pinto, Demi Moore, Mark Duplass, Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Richa Chadda, Riya Sisodiya, Anupam Kher, Adil Hussain, Sunny Pawar

Inspired by true events, this is the story of a young Indian village girl, Sonia. Her life changes irrevocably when she is entrapped in the global sex trade while trying to save her beloved sister Preeti. Struggling to free herself from small-time pimps, Sonia does not realise they are merely the foot soldiers of a ruthless, powerful army with its reach around the world. As she becomes aware of the enormity of the odds against her, Sonia is sustained by a fragile dream that is worth surviving for. Battling with the strength she didn’t know she had, her searing journey spans three continents and a lifetime of experiences that no young girl should have. Sonia is determined not to become one of the 800,000 women and children who are victims of the international sex trade industry every year.

Q&A with director Tabrez Noorani and cast and crew

Fri 22 June | 19.00 | Cineworld Broad Street (Red Carpet from 18.30)

 

CLOSING NIGHT GALA

Compass Productions

‘Venus’

Midlands Premiere. 95mins, Recommended Cert 12A

English. no English subtitles, Canada 2017

Director: Eisha Marjara

With Debargo Sanyal, Jamie Mayers, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Zena Darawalla, Gordon Warnecke

An award-winning, laugh-out-loud comedy about alternative family values, self-empowerment and love. Sid is a Montreal Punjabi, who after years of struggling with his identity has decided to have a sex change. Other than Sid’s mom crying a lot, all seems to be moving in the right direction, that is until a 14-year-old boy turns up and insists that Sid is his long-lost dad from a teenage affair. Shocked – obviously, Sid’s world rapidly spirals out of orbit as Sid attempts to nurture this latch-on teenager who thinks having a transgender Dad is “cool”, an in-the-closet partner and an about to combust Punjabi mom.

Q&A with Director Eisha Marjara and others

Sun 1 July | 18:00 | mac Birmingham

 

FEMALE EYE

We are delighted to screen a special selection of new films by some of the coolest award-winning South Asian women filmmakers on the planet.

Jugaad Motion Pictures

‘Teen Aur Aadha’ (Three and a Half)

Midlands Premiere. 119 mins, Recommended Cert 12A

Hindi, Marathi with English Subtitles. India 2018

Director: Dar Gai Producer

With: Zoya Hussain, Jim Sarbh, Suhasini Mulay

This beautifully layered, and stylistically groundbreaking saga narrates the story of one house which exists in three different eras. A young boy struggles with the pressures of pre-pubescent school life. Twenty years later the house is now a brothel where a young virgin

sex-worker is dealing with her first client. While 30 years later, the place is now a sublime home of an elderly couple that love, laugh and dance together, sharing many secrets of happy companionship. The film has been shot in three takes and a half-take at the end, which exhibits the house under renovation, symbolising the emergence of new stories and the inevitable nature of change in time.

Q&A with Director Dar Gai

Tue 26 June| 20:00 | mac Birmingham

KR Movies

‘Bird Of Dusk’

Midlands Premiere, 92mins, Recommended Cert U

Bengali and English with English subtitles, UK/India/Spain 2018.

Director: Sangeeta Dutta.
With: Soumitra Chatterjee, Nandita Das, Aparna Sen, Kaushik Gangully, Dorothee Wenner, Konkona Sen Sharma

A fearless, elegant and poetic insight into the career and private life of the late and legendary director Rituparno Ghosh, who we are proud to say attended our festival in our early days. Sangeeta Datta’s film invites reflections by some of Indian cinemas finest actors and filmmakers who recall Ghosh’s impact on their lives including Sharmila Tagore, Aparna Sen, Arjun Rampal, Nandita Das and Prasenjit Chatterjee. These are montaged with Ghosh’s films and his interviews depicting amongst other things an artist’s relationship to their beloved city Kolkata and a personal crusade to find their non-gender specific identity.

Panel discussion hosted by Professor Rajinder Dudrah with Sangeeta Datta and guests.

Wed 27 June | 19:00 | mac Birmingham

Flying River Flims

‘Village Rockstars’

Midlands Premiere, 87mins, Recommended Cert U

Assamese with English subtitles, India 2017.

Director: Rima Das

With: Bhanita Das, Basanti Das, Manabendra Das.

Recipient of multiple international awards, Village Rockstars is an instant crowd- pleaser. A single mother and her 10-year old daughter Dhunu live in a remote flood-prone Assamese village. Dhunu is not a shy, submissive girl and with a vibrant spirit and imagination she dreams of setting up her own rock band. She fashions a make-believe guitar out of expanded polystyrene and jams in the rice fields with her boy mates. Noticing an old guitar has come up for sale in the market Dhunu attempts schemes to raise money to buy it, but as the local women complain about Dhunu’s un-girlish behaviour, her mother is forced to make a stand.

Q&A with Director Rima Das

Thu 28 June | 19:00 | mac Birmingham

 

FATHERS & SONS

A vital relationship which forms the backbone of how men construct their masculinity and their futures is the relationship with the first man in our lives, nearly always our father. He can be an inspiring positive mentor, or at worst 
a carrier of toxic masculinity that he has in turn inherited. We offer a few films to explore these complex father and son relationships.

Mecca Films

‘Eaten By Lions’

Midlands Premiere, 99 mins, Recommended Cert 12A

English (no subtitles), UK 2018

Director: Jason Wingard

With: Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Asim Chaudhry, Johnny Vegas, Nitin Ganatra, Kevin Eldon

A laugh out loud and wryly written British comedy about two half-brothers who were brought up by their grandma in Bradford after their parents were accidentally killed by lions in a safari park. On their grandma’s sudden death, the teenage boys are looking for family care, but while one brother Pete, of English parentage, gets foisted on his controlling English aunty, the other brother Omar travels to the fabled holiday resort of Blackpool in search of his real Asian dad. Both brothers unable to be separated soon end up together on the riviera of the North, but as Omar discovers his new orthodox Muslim family all mayhem breaks loose.

Q&A with Jason Wingard and special Guests

Fri 29 June | 18:00 | mac Birmingham

Exstant Motion Pictures

‘Gali Guliyan’ (In the Shadows)

Midlands Premiere, 117 mins, Recommended Cert 15

Hindi with English Subtitles, India/ UK 2017

Director: Dipesh Jain

With: Manoj Bajpayee, Neeraj Kabi, Shahana Goswami, Ranvir Shorey, Om Singh

In the walled city of Old Delhi, a reclusive shopkeeper spends his days obsessively watching people through hidden closed-circuit cameras. When he overhears a boy being beaten by a man, he begins to frantically search for the child. As he becomes lost in the labyrinthine alleys of the city, his grasp on reality falters, until he eventually stumbles across a shocking truth about a father and an abused son. Dipesh Jain’s feature film debut is a superbly dark and atmospheric psychological thriller that expertly explores the roots of paranoia.

Q&A with director Dipesh Jain

Sat 23 June | 19:00 | Cineworld Broad Street

 

EXTRA-ORDINARY LIVES

Birmingham Indian Film Festival showcases independent films which celebrate depictions of ordinary lives through fiction and documentaries. This year we screen a selection of films, about the past and present, that show glimpses of real life in the subcontinent, which are sometimes hard, sometimes feel-good, and even comic but always compelling.

Sony Pictures Networks Productions

‘T For Taj Mahal’

Midlands Premiere, 104 mins, Recommended Cert PG

Hindi, English with English Subtitles. India 2018

Director: Kireet Khurana

With: Subrat Dutta, Ali Faulkner, Pitobash, Bidita Bag, Raveena Tandon

In this inspirational charmer, an illiterate villager runs a roadside eatery near the world- famous Taj Mahal. He is concerned that another generation of the villagers will also grow up without an education and get ridiculed and duped as he has been. He hatches a unique social enterprise idea of offering tourists who eat his food the option of paying their bill, or teaching the local youngsters. The idea is an initial hit, that is until a big company muscles in. This delightfully eye opening film features an outstanding cast of both international and Indian actors including Ali Faulkner (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), Pitobash (Million Dollar Arm) and Subrat Dutta (Talaash).

Sun 1 July | 14.15 | The Mockingbird Cinema & Kitchen

Halkaa

‘Halkaa’ (Relief)

Midlands Premiere, 114 Mins, Recommended Cert PG

Hindi, with English subtitles
India 2018

Director: Nila Madhab Panda

With: Tathastu, Ranvir Shorey, Paoli Dam

This lovely family film that addresses social issues in a light-hearted manner follows Pichku, a boy growing up in one of Delhi’s oldest slums, who fights against having to defecate in the open. After failing to convince his family and others to build a toilet, Pichku and his friend Gopi make it their mission to try and get one built. This is the ultimate feel good film that is both charming and heart-warming. Winner of the Grand Prix at the Montreal Film Festival, the film also boasts of a terrific soundtrack by virtuoso Bollywood composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.

Sat 30 June | 18:00 | mac Birmingham

Agora Films

‘The Song of Scorpions’

120 mins, Recommended Cert 15

Hindi with English subtitles, India/Switzerland/France 2017

Director: Anup Singh

With: Irrfan Khan, Golshifteh Farahani, Waheeda Rehman, Shashank Arora.

Mesmerisingly beautiful – this poetic tale is set within the deep desert landscapes of rural Rajasthan. Nooran is a defiantly independent young tribal woman trained by her grandmother in the ancient healing remedy of singing to counteract the deadly poison of scorpion stings. A lone camel herder Aadam (Irrfan Khan) is Nooran’s, admirer, but spurned by her he hatches a twisted plot to win her heart. Director Anup Singh’s meditative direction elicits intense but restrained performances from lead actors Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly) and Irrfan Khan (The Lunchbox) with a cameo by the legendary actress Waheeda Rehman.

Q&A with director Anup Singh (tbc)

Sat 30 June | 19:00 | Cineworld Broad Street

Happy Mind Entertainment

‘Cycle’

Midlands Premiere, 101 mins, Recommended Cert U

Marathi with English Subtitles, India 2017

Director: Prakash Kunte

With: Hrishikesh Joshi, Bhau Kaman, Priyadarshan Jadhav, Deepti Lee

In the village of Bhugaon Keshav is a well-known astrologer, with an even more famous yellow bicycle, known as Sunshine. The bicycle inherited from his grandfather after he passed away is Keshav’s most prized possession. One evening two wandering thieves steal his bike and as Keshav pines away for his beloved machine, he is unable to focus on his astrology and his predictions start going wrong. Unable to see Keshav crestfallen, the villagers band together to plan to somehow reunite the two. Cycle is a magical and life affirming story of love, hope and happiness.

Sun 24 June | 16:00 | Cineworld Broad Street

Jaaz Multimedia

‘Doob’ (No Bed of Roses)

Midlands Premiere, 86 mins, Recommended Cert 12A

Bengali with English subtitles, Bangladesh/India 2017

Director: Mostofa Sarwar Farooki

With: Irrfan Khan, Parno Mittra, Nusrat Imroz Tisha, Rokeya Prachy

Successful movie director Javed Hasan finds himself in a midlife crisis, questioning whether marriage and career have demanded too much from him. A tryst with Nitu, his daughter’s childhood friend, turns into a national scandal and his loving family is torn apart. Javed and Nitu marry, but it’s no bed of roses for the couple as they receive the wrath of judgmental Bangladeshi society. The latest film from Bangladesh’s most renowned filmmaker features a powerful central performance from internationally respected Indian actor Irrfan Khan. The film has been festooned with accolades at the Moscow and Shanghai film festivals.

Q&A with director Mostofa Farooki

Mon 25 June | 20:30 | The Mockingbird Cinema & Kitchen

Beyond The Limit Creations

‘My Son is Gay’

Midlands Premiere, 105 mins, Cert 12A

Tamil with English Subtitles, India 2017

Director: Lokesh Kumar

With: Anupama Kumar, Ashwinjith, Abhishek Joseph George, Kishore Kumar G.

Varun is a happy-go-lucky, handsome young man who is the apple of his mother Lakshmi’s eye. He believes his mother would be by his side no matter what. When Lakshmi discovers Varun is gay, she is shocked and vows it is something she will never accept. As he decides to move on with his life and find love, Lakshmi decides to seek out her lost son. My Son is Gay is a poignant tale of a multi-layered mother son relationship, that sensitively tackles universal themes of tolerance and acceptance.

Sat 23 Jun | 20:00 | mac Birmingham

SVF Entertainment

‘Uma’

Midlands Premiere. 148 mins, Recommended Cert PG

Bengali with English Subtitles. India 2018

Director: Srijit Mukherji

With: Jisshu Sengupta, Sara Sengupta, Anjan Dutt

Uma, a young girl who lives with her father in Switzerland, is diagnosed with a disease that could be terminal. Her greatest desire in life is to participate in the Durga Puja, the annual joyous celebrations which take place in October. The trouble is that Uma may not have until October and her father, with the help of an award-winning filmmaker and the entire city of Kolkata, undertakes to recreate the festival in the summer as a special treat for his beloved daughter. Based on a true story, ace filmmaker Srijit Mukherji crafts a life affirming emotional tale that is a celebration of the human spirit.

Sun 24 June | 14:00 | mac Birmingham

 

SATYAJIT RAY SHORT FILMS

Etienne Sievers

The annual London Indian Film Festival Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition Entries will be screened in Birmingham for the first time. The programme is a rare chance to see the works of talented, emerging filmmakers, who are exploring themes of South Asian experience.

The Peanut Seller: 19 mins. Hindi, 2017 Germany/ India Director: Etienne Sievers.An orphaned young ragpicker battling isolation and poverty in the streets of New Delhi tries to locate the one man capable of helping him find his mother.

Maun: 11 mins. Hindi, 2017 India Director: Priyanka Singh. A couple are shocked and distraught to find out their daughter has been sexually molested by their neighbour and struggle to decide on a course of action.

The Fish Curry: 12 mins. Hindi, 2017 India Director: Abhishek Verma.In this beautifully realised animation a young man prepares his father’s favourite fish curry as he decides to come-out to his parents over the dinner table.

Circle: 14 mins. Hindi, 2017 India/ UK Director: Jayisha Patel.

A haunting portrait of a rape survivor, caught in the devious ploys of her family.

Paro: 20mins. Hindi, 2017 India Director: Vijay Kumar. A powerful drama about a young girl sold to Haryanvi family as a bride.

Jaan Jigar: 19 mins. Hindi, 2017 India Director: Ranjan Chandel. A sweet and charming tale of two teenagers in the throes of first love meeting to have their first kiss.

Dreams: 10mins. Tamil, 2017 India Director: Athithya Kanagarajan.

Dilip, a twelve-year old paper boy is overjoyed at the prospect of his idol, Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam attending his school annual day celebration.

Sat 30 June | 16:00 | The Mockingbird Cinema & Kitchen | Recommended 14+

The Birmingham Indian Film Festival (BIFF) is on at venues across the city until July 1. For more details, visit: www.birminghamindianfilmfestival.co.uk

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