Film festival hopes to bridge cultures

BY LOUIS HOBSON, CALGARY SUN
FIRST POSTED: TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2017 11:54 AM MDT

The India Film Festival of Alberta is expanding its reach.

Created three years ago in Edmonton by the Edmonton Movie Club, this festival of films from and about India wants to bridge cultures through cinema.

Madhan Selvaraj, the executive director of the festival, explains how the festival is expanding.

"We started the India Film Festival of Alberta in 2015 with screenings in Edmonton, Calgary and Fort McMurray.

"We had to suspend out tour to For McMurray in the second year because of the wildfire but we'll be back there this year and we're adding Cold Lake, Peace River and Red Deer," says Selvaraj.

The Edmonton and Calgary festivals each feature 10 films over three days but the other cities will each screen just one or two of the movies on a single day.

The Calgary leg of the festival will be held at the Globe Cinema July 21 through 23 and will open at 7 p.m. on July 21 with a screening of the Hindi-language dark comedy Newton which screened at this year's Berlin International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival and is a coup for Selvaraj's festival which explains why it was just added at the last moment.

Newton is the story of a rookie government clerk who vows that his little jungle village will have a fair election even if he personally has to ward of the rebels bent on disrupting it.

Newton is followed at 9:30 with Virkram Vedha, a Tamil action crime thriller that was also just released this month and was also a late addition to the festival.

July 22 will see the screening of four films beginning at 1 p.m. with the screening of the Malayalam-language film When the Woods Bloom which had its premiere at the 2016 Montreal World Film Festival. It tells the story of a policeman who is sent to a remote village to capture the leader of a radical guerrilla organization. When he sees someone escaping into the jungle at night he follows to apprehend the fugitive only to discover it is a woman, who, like him does not know the way out of the jungle.

The 3:15 p.m. film is the Gujarati-language social comedy Pay and Use followed at 5:45 p.m. by the Malayalam-language dramatic thriller Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum which was just released in India in June and tells the story of newly-weds trapped in a police station trying to convince authorities that the young man they brought in with them stole a valuable necklace from the bride.

The final film on June 22 is Canadian superstar director Deepa Mehta's 2016 Hindi-language film Anatomy of Violence which looks at the root causes of the horrific 2012 Delhi gang rape. The film debuted at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival.

June 23 will also feature four films beginning at noon with the 2016 Hindi-language comedy Ventilator. The most respected and eldest member of a large extended family goes into a coma just days before an important festival. If he dies the whole clan will have to go into mourning and miss all the fun of the festival.

At 2:30 p.m. the festival will screen the 2017 Bengali film Bishorjon which won best Bengali film at India's 64th Annual National Film Awards. It is the troubled romance between a young Hindu widow who rescues a dying stranger only to discover he is a Muslim. They must hide his identity or risk the wrath of the villagers.

The 4:30 p.m. film is the 2016 Hindi-language thriller A Death in the Gunj which is being compared to Alfred Hitchcock's style of psychological thriller. It's the story of a young man who is always the brunt of his extended family's jokes both psychological and physical.

The final film of the festival is the 2016 Hindi-language drama Mukti Bhawan or Salvation which premiered to rave reviews and popular acclaim at the 64th Annual National Film Awards and at the 2016 Venice Film Festival. It's the story of a young man who must drop everything in his life to take his aged father to the holy city of Varanasi because the old man had a dream that he would die very soon. When they check into a hotel catering to people waiting to die, both father and son find new meaning in their lives and relationship.

Selvaraj says that Mukti Bhawan fits into the festival's mandate "not only to find and screen award-winning films from major studios in India but from small independent companies.

"We want Albertans to be able to experience the best in both commercial and independent films from India.

"It's important that we change the conception that all Indian films are Bollywood films. There is a such a richness and diversity in Indian cinema today."

The India Film Festival of Alberta offers special screening passes.

The $50 pass gives a person access to any five of the 10 films but there is an $80 pass which can be used to see all 10 of the films. General admission is $12 per film.

Selvaraj says the best way to purchase a pass is to do so online at indiafilmfestival.ca where you can also see a complete schedule for the Globe screenings and trailers for these films.

Passes will also be on sale at the Globe Cinema before each screening.