A Paradise for travel and film buffs, DIFF 2016 which will be held from 3-6 November in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala gets a new look and venue  

Among other highlights, docu features-A Syrian Love Story by British director Sean McAllister, the Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s much-lauded Sonita, and fiction features -Thailand’s first female director, Pimpaka Towira’s The Island Funeral, South Korean director Jeon Soo-il’s A Korean in ParisRajeev Ravi’s Malayalam film Kammatipaadam and Mangesh Joshi’s Marathi film Lathe Joshi will be screened and the directors will be present at DIFF 2016

The fifth Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) will take place from 3 to 6 November 2016 in the beautiful mountain town of McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala ­– home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the meeting point of a rich and cosmopolitan mix of people and cultures.

DIFF 2016 registration is opened and can be done online on Book My Show.

DIFF is presented by White Crane Arts & Media, a trust founded by veteran filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam to promote contemporary cinema, art and independent media practices in the Himalayan regions of India.

This year, DIFF is once again supported by its long-term partners, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, the Government of Himachal Pradesh through its Departments of Tourism and Language, Arts and Culture, and NFDC (National Films Division Corporation of India).

The first edition of DIFF was held in 2012. Since then, it has established itself as one of India’s leading independent film festivals. DIFF’s cutting-edge and eclectic programming, which includes many India premieres, and its policy of inviting as many directors as possible, has made it one of the ‘go-to’ events in any cinephile’s calendar. At DIFF 2015, 5000 cinema enthusiasts not just from the local area but also from across India and the world watched films. Some of India’s best-known film critics and journalists from leading media houses were on hand to cover the event.

Festival directors, Ritu and Tenzing, are determined that the event will maintain its established momentum. “This is our fifth year and it means a great deal to us to have reached this milestone,” says Ritu, “DIFF has surpassed all our expectations; from starting out as a small event in a town with no cinemas to becoming a truly international festival, with filmmakers, guests and audiences looking forward to coming to here each year from all over the world.”

Co-Director Tenzing adds: “We hope to continue building on the qualities for which DIFF has become known – showcasing an excellent selection of indie films from India and around the globe and encouraging exchange and discussion between filmmakers and film lovers in an intimate yet casual atmosphere. At the same time, a priority this year is to expand its outreach to local communities, schools and colleges, and

This year, DIFF unveils a brand new look designed by Wieden+Kennedy Delhi, who have come on board as the Creative Partners for the festival. Hemant Sreekumar, Director of Experience explains, “DIFF’s new logotype was evolved out of the linear aspects of Buddhist art, whereas the colour thematic was inspired by the artist Nicholas Roerich’s ethereal himalayan hues. It’s an honour to be associated with DIFF as their creative partners this year, and being a part of their fifth year milestone.”

For the fourth year in a row, the shorts selection has been curated by filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni, who has been a DIFF participant and supporter from our very first edition.

DIFF’s Children’s Film Programme is curated by Children’s Media Specialist, Monica Wahi who selected the films last year as well.

DIFF is also excited to present a selection of videos from the collection of its long-term collaborator, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary.

DIFF is thrilled to announce the first six films from DIFF 2016. The directors of all six films will be coming to the festival to present their films and participate in Q&A sessions. These include:

  • A Syrian Love Story by British director Sean McAllister hailed as a “Bergmanesque portrait of relationship and love” at the Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 where it was awarded the Grand Jury prize. In the vein of his other works, A Syrian Love Story explores the possibility of survival where the personal is in intimate conflict with the political. Comrades and lovers Amer and Raghda’s lives are changed irrevocably through a series of trials and tribulations, which begin when the ‘Arab Spring’ sweeps the region.
  • National Film Award winner and Anurag Kashyap’s long-term cinematographer, Rajeev Ravi’s third directorial venture, the gangster epic,KammatipaadamThe rich upper caste land mafia use Dalit gangsters to usurp land, thus perpetuating the plight of the landless Dalits. The film explores the friendship of a middle-class Hindu boy Krishnan and a Dalit boy Ganga against this backdrop of violence, which is transforming the natural fabric of a city into a concrete wilderness.
  • South Korean director Jeon Soo-il’s A Korean in Paris,a road film that takes us through the city of Paris in a tale woven within her underbelly of minorities. The film draws an evocative portrait of a Korean man in search for his wife travelling through alternative spaces where reality is plural, morality is dubious, and everyday is a dream.
  • Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s much-lauded Sonita,the story of Sonita, an 18-year-old undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant living in the suburbs of Tehran. This heart-warming, creative documentary etches out the trials of a feisty young woman who raps about the situation of young Afghan women and dreams of being a musician but comes up against the entrenched patriarchy embodied in her family who wants to sell her off as a bride to a new family.
  • Internationally renowned as Thailand’s first female director, Pimpaka Towira’s The Island Funerala road movie that explores the ambiguity of identities as two siblings travel through south Thailand, a Muslim-predominant region plagued by outbreaks of violence and official mistrusts.
  • Marathi film Lathe Joshi by Mangesh Joshi, a moving, poetic and meditative look at a good man lost in the crossroads of a rapidly changing world. The film explores the dignity and relevance of labour and skill within an economy that is measurable in numbers. The superimposed nature of job and identity leave Joshi in a fix as his family progresses, while he struggles to find relevance after losing his job.

DIFF 2016 continues its Film Fellows programme, which was first set up in 2014 to enable budding filmmakers from the Indian Himalayan regions to attend the festival and participate in mentorship sessions with established filmmakers. Filmmakers Umesh Kulkarni and Anupama Srinivasan will mentor the fellows.

This year sees a change of venue from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, which is undergoing major renovations until 2018, to the bucolic environs of the Tibetan Children’s Village – a pleasant 15-minute drive McLeod Ganj. The festival films will be screened in two auditoriums on the campus with all other events, including master classes, panel discussions, workshops and a food and craft fair all located within walking distance.