With 11 independent films, two music documentaries and a host of talent over 10 days in three cinemas, the Bagri Foundation Birmingham Indian Film Festival (BIFF) returns to the UK city this summer in partnership with the city-wide USTAV celebration of South Asian culture. Sister to the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (LIFF), it is regarded as Europe’s largest Indian film festival and will run from Friday 23 June until Sunday 2 July 2017.
The Festival opens on Friday 23 June at Cineworld Birmingham Broad Street with a glittering red-carpet Birmingham premiere of the historical epic, ‘The Black Prince’ by Kavi Raz, a powerful UK-produced film launched at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
‘The Black Prince’ stars Punjabi singer Satinder Sartaaj – who will be guest of honour on the opening night – iconic actress Shabana Azmi (‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, ‘Fire’), Jason Flemyng (‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, ‘X-Men:First Class’) and Amanda Root (‘Jane Eyre’). The film dramatises the true but little-known story of the last King of Punjab who was abducted by the British Raj to be mentored by Queen Victoria.
Back into the 21st Century for the closing night, on 2 July, mac Birmingham will screen the surreal Malayalam road-movie thriller ‘Sexy Durga’ directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan. Winner of the prestigious Tiger Award for best film at Rotterdam International Film Festival ‘Sexy Durga’, set in Kerala, tells the tale of a hitch-hiking couple who try to escape a road to hell after accidentally getting into a car of deranged gangsters.
Following the screening, director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan will join Professor Rajinder Dudrah from Birmingham City University for a Q&A about his film.
Professor Rajinder Dudrah, Professor of Cultural Studies & Creative Industries, Birmingham City University, said: “I’m really excited that Birmingham now has its own Indian Film Festival, supported by the Bagri Foundation, which will showcase some of the very best of independent Indian and South Asian films. Although many people will know popular Indian cinema primarily through Bollywood films, this festival is a good way to introduce audiences to a wider array of films from the sub-continent.
“I am particularly looking forward to seeing and hosting the post-film discussion of ‘Sexy Durga’, a dark road movie which plays around with the narrative form, and also deals with issues of gender and the inhumanity of some people,” he added.
Students from Birmingham City University will also be present throughout the Festival, volunteering in a variety of roles across the three venues.
The acclaimed festival features new and exciting cinema featuring cutting edge films that reaffirm the Festival’s position as the ‘punk-rock of Indian cinema’ and is an edgy tie-in, to UK-India Year of Culture and complements the India on Film programme, run by the British Film Institute (BFI).
Further screenings include the regional premieres of Tamil comedy, ‘Ticket – The Movie’ (Raaghav Ranganthan, 2017), anarchic Bollywood comedy ‘Badman’ (Soumik Sen, 2017) and N Padmakumar’s inspirational Mumbai drama ‘A Billion Colour Story’ (2016).
The Festival experiments for the first time with horror with the disturbing ‘Hide and Seek’ (Vishal Furia, 2016), plus the Regional Premiere of Pakistani gangster thriller, ‘Whirlpool’ (Harune Massey 2017).
The Bagri Foundation Birmingham Indian Film Festival will also host an exclusive ‘In Conversation With’ including Bollywood director Ashutosh Gowariker, who directed Bollywood superstar, Aamir Khan in the Oscar-nominated ‘Lagaan: Once Upon A Time in India’ (2001) and the epic historical romance ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ (2008) starring former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai.
Cary Rajinder Sawhney, LIFF & BIFF Director, says: “We are delighted to bring Birmingham audiences a carefully curated selection of the very best new Indian and South Asian independent cinema; all films are English subtitled, offering a rare window into over a billion South Asian lives.
“This year’s selection includes premieres of new comedies, gripping thrillers, shocking horror and insightful true-life documentaries as well as bringing together UK previews of major award-winning films from the world’s greatest film festivals.”
New venue partners for this evolving festival continue to help it serve a broader diverse audience and this year the Festival is delighted to welcome The Mockingbird Cinema and Kitchen, based at the Custard Factory in Digbeth. The Festival’s long-term venues include Cineworld Birmingham Broad Street and mac Birmingham.
The Festival is title sponsored by the Bagri Foundation, with major support from Grange Hotels, Sun Mark Ltd, and is funded by the BFI’s National Lottery Film Festivals Fund.
This year the Festival is proud to be working with new partners; Asian Business Chamber of Commerce and Birmingham City University, as well as new Media Partner BBC Radio WM alongside the continued support of Desiblitz, Sampad South Asian Arts and Film Birmingham.
Following the Festival, selected films will be made available on the BFI’s VOD service, BFI Player.