By Lauren Codling and Raj Alom
This year’s London Film Festival will pay tribute to India after the British Film Institute restored archive footage and put them online for free.
An array of features from south Asia is also on offer at the 61st BFI London Film Festival, including Mumbai-set drama Beyond the Clouds and the much anticipated The Brawler, the latest offering by acclaimed Indian director Anurag Kashyap. It’s a romantic drama with a boxer who faces tough choices as he pursues his cream of being a champion.
“[Kashyap] is one of the most exhilarating and interesting Indian directors currently working and we see him being very much on form in terms of powerful and inventive film making,” Clare Stewart, the festival director, told Eastern Eye.
Amanda Nevill, the chief executive at BFI, explained that this year has been one of the great celebrations at the BFI concerning Indian film.
“What we’ve done is we have investigated [the BFI] archive over several years and found the most extraordinary, richest materials relating to the early years of India. We’ve restored them and put them online for free, it’s one of the largest collections of film about India ever.
“In a way, it’s our tribute to the anniversary of partition with a focus on India and Pakistan,” Nevill said.
One of the highlights of the restored films is the 1928 film Shiraz: A Romance of India, a romance based behind the building of the Taj Mahal, and which will feature music scored by sitar player Anoushka Shankar.
“We are really excited that in the year of India/UK cultural we have the world premiere of a new restoration of Shiraz,” Stewart said, “it is an incredibly beautiful film and very evocative in terms of its storytelling and imagery.”
She added: “We are really delighted that [the film] will be played live at the Barbican with a range of other musicians that are playing both Indian and western instruments.”
The film festival, which runs from October 4-15, features movies from 67 countries.
Among the movies from the subcontinent are The Hungry, a rework of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus into a modern tragedy set in northern India, and The Song of Scorpions, a revenge fantasy starring Life of Pi and The Amazing Spider-man star Irrfan Khan.
Indian underground cult classic Om Dar-B-Dar will also make its debut in UK screens, three decades years after it was first made.
“Diversity is at the heart of what we do so bringing a range of international stories to audiences in the UK is one of our most important roles as a festival,” Stewart said.
Among the south Asian films she is looking forward to is a new documentary by Pakistan’s Sabiha Sumar called Azmaish: A Journey Through the Subcontinent.
“It gives a very insightful look at what is happening in contemporary Pakistan,” Stewart explained.
Held in London, Nevill explains the city is a perfect place to screen the festival’s selections due to it being one of the “great, creative and cultural capitals in the world.”
“It is one of the places where the world’s film makers come to be inspired and make films,” she told Eastern Eye, “the whole strength of the BFI film festival is that you get the opportunity to watch a hand selected choice of films from around the globe.
“It is a fantastic opportunity within those 10 days to come and see handpicked for you, the best international films that there are available at this time.”
For more information, see: whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/