Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam who started the DIFF speaking at Upper TCV School in Dharamshala, India. The festival ended with the closing night screening of Aijaz Khan's 'Hamid' at the Hermann Gmeiner Auditorium. photo: TPI

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Dharamshala – The 7th Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) 2018 concluded in the Himalayan town of McLeod Ganj, in northern India, on November 5, 2018 with screening dependent features, documentaries and short films, including Aijaz Khan’s Hamid.

The film was screened to a packed house as audiences turned in up in large numbers to watch the much talked about movie. The screening of the film of the film was followed by a Q&A.

Internationally renowned photographer Raghu Rai and his filmmaker daughter Avani Rai attended the screening of her debut documentary Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait on the final day of the festival.

The film follows Avani Rai’s journey as she follows her father Raghu Rai during one of his trips to Kashmir with the intent of getting an insight into his life and exploring their personal relationship. The screening was followed by a Q&A in which the father and daughter duo enthusiastically responded to the varied questions posed by members of the audience.

The day began with the screenings of Ridham Janve’s Gaddi-language feature film The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain and Talal Derki’s Sundance 2018 Grand Jury Prize Winner Docu Of Fathers And Sons.

The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain is a part of this year’s edition of Spotlight on Himachal at DIFF, according to organisers.

Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s The Sweet Requiem which had its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018 was also screened during the day.

The other crowd pleasers of the day included TIFF 2017 Official Selection Waru, Suba Sivakumaran’s House Of My Fathers and Khavn’s Bamboo Dogs.

The final day of the festival also saw the screening of the Shorts Selection which was curated by noted filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni (Highway, Deool). The selection included Tarun Jain’s Amma Meri, Abhijeet Phartiyal’s Khurafat, Prantik Basu’s Sakhisona, Natesh Hedge’s Namage Navu Godege Mannu and Raghbir Singh Toor’s Two Brothers.

The #MeToo movement in India has seen a flurry of instances of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior reported by several women including actors and technicians working in the Indian film industry. The movement has put the spotlight on the issue of sexual misconduct and harassment which has been prevalent for several years in the Indian film industry.

#MeToo and Independent Cinema – a panel discussion on the final day of the festival dealing with incidences of sexual harassment in the Indian Indie film industry and framing guidelines, policies and reporting mechanisms to safeguard the rights and interests of the women working in the Indian Indie Film industry.

The panel was held with filmmaker Anamika Haksar (Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon), writer-critic Trisha Gupta, Bina Paul - editor and Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala, Mrinalini Singha (who was one of the filmmakers selected for this year’s DIFF Film Fellows Initiative) and Ritu Sarin - founder-director of the Dharamshala International Film Festival and was moderated by Monica Wahi – curator of DIFF’s Children Programme.

The panel was of the opinion that the need of the hour is to find ways and protect and secure the women working in the industry. And this can be only implemented by having a proper system and legal policies in place.

Bina Paul who has spearheaded the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) which aims to protect women working in the Malayalam film industry said the focus should on helping women to heal from the aftermath of such ghastly incidences. “The Me Too movement is a healing game and a not a killing game. The movement is trying to mend something that is wrong and has been happening for a long time now. Women need care and help in rebuilding their confidence.”

She further added that, “Any form of sexual harassment is wrong and cannot be justified or defended in any way. Sexual harassment is about power dynamics. At a workplace there are power equations and these equations play out as sexual harassment.”

The internationally renowned photographer Raghu Rai who attended the screening of his daughter Avani Rai’s debut feature Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait said, “The Dharamshala Film Festival is such an amazing festival. It’s all thanks to the efforts of Ritu Sarin who has made the festival what it is. It is such a wonderful feeling to be at the festival and attend the screening of the film with my daughter.”

Director Avani Rai was thrilled to attend the screening of her debut feature Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait with her father Raghu Rai and said, “To attend the screening with my father in Dharamshala was an amazing feeling. Ritu and Tenzing have always brought cinema that is very well curated and goes beyond providing mere entertainment. They have always encouraged filmmakers to have conversations. I love the vibe of the festival and to pull off a festival like this is simply amazing.”

Director Aijaz Khan was extremely happy with the response received by Hamid at the festival and said, “All these years, after having heard so much about the vibe of DIFF, it’s a great privilege that my film has been selected as the closing film for this year’s edition of the festival. The experience has gone way beyond my expectations. And to top it all, I got the chance to shake hands with Dalai Lama. I would like to thank you to Ritu and Tenzing and everyone at DIFF for giving us this wonderful opportunity.”

Summing up this year’s edition of the festival, founder-director Ritu Sarin said, “The 7th edition of The Dharamshala International Film Festival was indeed an eventful affair. From the Spotlight On Filmmakers From Himachal to the first Dharamshala PJLF Editing Workshop to introducing Digital Cinema Projection and Dolby Sound, these new initiatives made this year’s edition of the festival a truly unforgettable affair. For the first time in seven years, the weather gods were not kind to us but the rain and cold did not dampen the mood of the festival-goers who were as enthusiastic as ever.

The number of filmmakers participating in the festival has been increasing with every subsequent year. This coupled with the ever encouraging patronage of the audiences has inspired us further to conduct the future editions of the festival on a much bigger note.”

This year’s line-up at DIFF included the documentaries — Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait by Avani Rai, Boom For Now (Sarah Driver, USA), In the Intense Now (João Moreira Salles, Brazil), A Long Way Home (Luc Scheadler, Switzerland) and Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (Stephen Nomura Schible, USA/Japan).

The Indian Programming highlights at the festival this year included Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle, Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Ee.Ma.Yau., Ridham Janve’s Gaddi-language feature film The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain, Dominic Sangma’s Garo language film Ma’ama, Asia Premiere of Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s The Sweet Requiem which had its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018 and Anamika Haksar’s Ghode ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon.

Riddham Janve’s Gaddi language debut feature, The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain and Shimla-based filmmaker Siddharth Chauhan’s short film, Pashi, shot in Himachal Pradesh, were a part of this year’s Spotlight on Himachal.

The International Programming highlights at the festival included the Indian Premieres of Hiroshi Sunairi’s 48 Years: Silent Dictator (Japan), TIFF 2017 Official Selection Waru (New Zealand), Tashi Gyeltshen’s The Red Phallus (Won the FIPRESCI at Busan), Zaza Khalvashi’s Namme (official entry to the Oscars from Georgia), and screenings of Yim Soon- Rye’s Little Forest (Korea), Hsiao Ya Chuan’s Father To Son (Taiwan) and the documentaries Boom For Now (Sarah Driver, USA), In the Intense Now (João Moreira Salles, Brazil), A Long Way Home (Luc Scheadler, Switzerland), The Beksińskis. A Sound And Picture Album (Marcin Borchardt, Poland) and Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (Stephen Nomura Schible, USA/Japan).

This year, DIFF hosted the first Dharamshala PJLF Editing Workshop, an initiative supported by NFDC. The two selected projects were Where the Winds Blow by Director Karma Takapa and Editor Anadi Athaley, and 4Sum by Director Neeraj Gwal and Editor Rishiraj Bhattacharya. A third project, Chola, directed and edited by Sanal Sasidharan, was unanimously recommended by the selection committee and received editing consultation from the mentors. The projects were mentored by internationally renowned editor Jacques Comets who co-headed the editing department at France’s leading film school, La Femis, along with editor and Artistic Director of the Kerala International Film Festival, Bina Paul and producer and script/editing mentor Olivia Stewart.

During this year’s edition of the DIFF Film Fellow initiative - five filmmakers from Himachal Pradesh - Rahat Mahajan, Aman Sharma, Mrinalini Singha, Vaasu Soni and Kesang Thakur were mentored by renowned National Award-winning filmmaker Gurvinder Singh and award-winning documentary filmmaker Anupama Srinivasan. The initiative, started in 2014, is supported by the HP Government’s Department of Language, Arts and Culture, and this year focused on filmmakers from Himachal Pradesh.

This year’s shorts selection was curated by filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni, whilst our Children’s Film Programme was curated by children’s media specialist Monica Wahi.

This year DIFF hosted two workshops – Crowdfunding 101 with Wishberry and Quark Workshop.

#MeToo and Independent Cinema - a panel discussion with filmmaker Anamika Haksar (Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon), writer-critic Trisha Gupta and editor and IFFK director Bina Paul on dealing with sexual harassment within the Indian Indie film industry was held at DIFF this year.

A Special Programme titled ‘Manoj Bajpayee And The Art Of Acting’ saw actor Manoj Bajpayee talk about his journey and evolution as an actor with renowned film critic and author Aseem Chhabra.

This year DIFF had its third full fledged community outreach programme, in which they conducted carefully curated independent film screenings and activities on the doorsteps of Dharamshala’s diverse populations as well as drawing local audiences into the main festival. The outreach programme included Community Screenings, Film Appreciation Competition and Children’s and Colleges Programmes.

For the Community Screenings, DIFF partnered with Jagori Rural Charitable Trust and the National Film Development Corporation in which they showed feature and short films at 20 locations including five Gaddi villages, six schools and colleges and Dharamshala Jail. The short films selected included Kush, Little Hands, The School Bag and Juice. The feature films included Mukti Bhawan and Turup. The screenings were followed by discussions with the audiences which included children from the age of five and senior adults.

The Film Appreciation Competition chose 27 participants from six schools to participate in outreach wokshops, where they were encouraged to actively discuss cinema. This was followed by a screening of Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Kush on the opening day which was attended by the participants and a final assignment. A jury comprising of Monica Wahi, noted film critic and writer Aseem Chhabra and poet Tenzing Tsundue selected the winners.

The 7th edition of Dharamshala International Film Festival 2018 concluded with Aijaz Khan’s Hamid which was screened to a packed house;

  • Internationally renowned photographer Raghu Rai and his filmmaker daughter Avani Rai attended the screening of her debut documentary, Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait
  • Ridham Janve’s Gaddi-language feature film The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain, TIFF 2017 Official Selection Waru, Talal Derki’s Sundance 2018 Grand Jury Prize Winner Docu Of Fathers And Sons, Suba Sivakumaran’s House Of My Fathers and Khavn’s Bamboo Dogs were the crowd pleasers of the day
  • Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s The Sweet Requiem which had its World Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2018 was also screened
  • #MeToo and Independent Cinema – a panel discussion on dealing with sexual harassment in the Indian Indie film industry was held with filmmaker Anamika Haksar (Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon), writer-critic Trisha Gupta, Bina Paul - editor and Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala, Mrinalini Singha (who was one of the filmmakers selected for this year’s DIFF Film Fellows Initiative) and Ritu Sarin - founder-director of the Dharamshala International Film Festival and moderated by Monica Wahi – Curator of DIFF Children’s Film Programme
  • Tarun Jain’s Amma Meri, Abhijeet Phartiyal’s Khurafat, Prantik Basu’s Sakhisona, Natesh Hedge’s Namage Navu Godege Mannu and Raghbir Singh Toor’s Two Brothers were screened in the Shorts Selection curated by filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni

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