Magazine article Screen International

Mike Dougherty Talks Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

Magazine article Screen International

Mike Dougherty Talks Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

Article excerpt

The director of programming talks censorship, diaspora and non-Bollywood cinema ahead of the 15th annual event that runs in Downtown Los Angeles from April 5-9.

Alankrita Shrivastava's controversial Lipstick Under My Burkha [pictured] and Shubhashish Bhutiani's Hotel Salvation bookend the festival.

Other highlights include a tribute to musician Zakir Hussain, and a director round table. Click here for further details.

What is the festival about and what kind of films do you select?

Our festival is the premiere festival in the United States for Indian cinema with highlights from the year past. We also like to find discoveries. Indian cinema is by and large looked at as Bollywood, but in recent years there's been a new wave of Indian cinema, which is what we have come to focus on.

It's not dissimilar to what's going on in the US, where big directors want to tackle more challenging subject matter. It's starting to make waves on the festival circuit. The filmmaking system in India is such that films are made in more than 40 languages and dialects, so we try to highlight the major successes of the year and give on a good view of what's around [the sub-continent].

So you're championing Indian independents?

The major Bollywood films have their conduit into US theatres [and these are] the films the diaspora audiences are going to see, but it's hard for the independent features to get distribution. Netflix has been giving these films releases, but it's hard for them to get theatrical releases and distributors tend to overlook Indian films because there this sense what Bollywood equals India.There are occasional breakouts like The Lunchbox that was picked up by Sony Classics. It's still an uphill struggle though.

Tell us about the range on offer

We have six features by female directors, three shorts and 12 languages represented across the programme. We have films that were in Cannes and Toronto. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's Sexy Durga just won the Tiger Award in Rotterdam and will come to us for the Los Angeles premiere.

It seems from looking at the selection that Indian filmmakers are not afraid of courting controversy and tackling tough subjects

The opening night gala is Lipstick Under My Burka. It's directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and is serious and lively and irreverent. [It's about] four women struggling to express themselves as sexual beings. Very bold filmmaking for any filmmaker and it's been in the news because it's been winning awards around the world. …

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