- Monks at the Tsuklag Khang Temple in Dharamshala, March 11, 2009
If you wanted an excuse to go on one last trip to the mountains before it gets too cold, this is it: Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama’s Himalayan hometown, is hosting a four-day film festival starting from Nov. 1.
“It’s an idea that my wife Ritu and I had for a while,” says Tenzing Sonam, co-director of the Dharamshala International Film Festival. “We live in Dharamshala ourselves, we have been here for 16 years, and always thought it would be nice to have a film festival here.”
The festival is screening 26 films – mostly documentaries and feature-length movies by Indian and foreign filmmakers – in three venues across town.
Mr. Sonam believes Dharamshala is well suited to host an international film festival because of the unusual mix of people it attracts: “It’s an international destination for travelers, tourists, spiritual seekers – all kinds of people come to Dharamshala,” he said.
What put Dharamshala on the map, of course, is the Dalai Lama, who has been based there since he fled Tibet in the late 1950s. Since then, a large community of Tibetans has also made it home.
Here are five things you should not miss at the festival:
1.) “Five Broken Cameras,” 2012. This award-winning documentary, directed by an Israeli and a Palestinian, tells a story of conflict through footage taken by a Palestinian farmer, Emad, using five different video cameras. Guy Davidi, one of the two filmmakers, will be speaking at a panel discussion called “Films from the Frontline.”
2.) Many non-commercial Indian films – read: non-Bollywood – will be shown at the festival. They include Hansal Mehta’s “Shahid” (2012), the real-life story of Shahid Azmi, a slain criminal lawyer and human-rights activist; and Umesh Kulkarni’s“Deool” (2011), a film in Marathi, a regional language, set in rural India. There’s also Ashmi Ahluwalia’s “Miss Lovely” (2012), a film about two brothers who produced illegal sex-horror movies in the 1980s. All three directors will be attending the festival and speaking at a panel discussion on alternative Indian cinema.
3.) “½ Revolution,” 2012. This documentary captures intimate moments of one of the defining events of the Arab Spring: the waves of protest in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The film’s director, Karim el Hakim, will be joining other filmmakers in the “Films From the Frontline” panel.
4.) “Senna,” 2010. Even if you are not a Formula One fan, you should watch this award-winning documentary on one of the greatest drivers of all time: Brazil’s Ayrton Senna. British-Indian filmmaker Asif Kapadia tells the story of Senna from his first races in the mid-1980s to his tragic death on the racetrack 10 years later. On the sidelines of the festival, Mr. Kapadia will be holding an interactive session on his fiction and non-fiction film.
5.) A Himalayan focus. For a more local flavor, don’t miss the films set in the Himalayan belt. “When Hari Got Married” (2012), a documentary directed by the two festival organizers, is about a local taxi driver who is marrying a girl he never met but fell in love with over the phone. There’s also “Yangsi” (2012), the story of a Tibetan believed to be the reincarnation (the “yangsi”) of a Buddhist master, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
For more details on the festival
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