The 9th edition of the Dharamshala Film Festival is going online for the first time. Its highlights include the Indian premiere of Massoud Bakhshi’s Sundance grand jury prize winner “Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness,” and a conversation with Oscar-winner Asif Kapadia (“Amy”).
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dharamshala is best known internationally as the seat of the Dalai Lama, who has been based there since being exiled from Tibet in 1959. The festival directors Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam are filmmakers in their own right. Their chronicles of the Tibetan condition like 2005’s “Dreaming Lhasa,” 2010’s “The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom” and 2018’s “The Sweet Requiem” have received considerable festival play, including at Toronto and San Sebastian.
The Dharamshala festival directors will be in conversation with Kapadia and also with Chaitanya Tamhane, director of this year’s Venice and Toronto award-winning title “The Disciple.”
A panel discussion with filmmakers from South Asia will see producer Shrihari Sathe (“Screwdriver”) in conversation with Pakistan’s Afia Nathanial (“Dukhtar”), Nepal’s Deepak Rauniyar (“White Sun”), India’s Geetu Mohandas (“The Elder One”), Bangladesh’s Mostofa Sarwar Farooki (“Saturday Afternoon”) and Bhutan’s Tashi Gyeltshen (“The Red Phallus”).
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The festival will present “An Invocation to the Earth,” the new short film by award-winning Singaporean filmmaker Yeo Siew Hua, Locarno and Golden Horse winner for “A Land Imagined,” accompanied by a conversation with the filmmaker.
Other Indian premieres include recent festival circuit films Hao Wu, Weixi Chen and Anonymous’ “76 Days,” Gianfranco Rosi’s “Notturno” and Arab and Tarzan Nasser’s Toronto Netpac award winner “Gaza Mon Amour.”
Indian-themed documentaries include: Rotterdam’s Bright Future prize-winner “A Rifle and a Bag” by Arya Rothe, Cristina Hanes and Isabella Rinaldi; Krakow festival winner “Pearl of the Desert” by Pushpendra Singh; and “That Cloud Never Left,” by Yashaswini Raghunandan.
“Although we were initially unsure about taking (the festival) online, now that we’ve taken the plunge, we’re really excited by the possibilities that this has opened up,” Sarin said. From this year, the festival is instituting an audience award for best first film among Indian shorts. “The online format also allows us to program many more films than we could normally and we are thrilled about that.”
In all, the festival will present more than 100 features and shorts from 40 countries, and run Oct. 29-Nov. 4.