Sponsors The Bagri Foundation are keen to promote the cultures of the Indian sub-continent and improve the international understanding of artistic work from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This year the festival programme takes a close look at the themes of ‘the female eye’, ‘fathers and sons’ and ‘extraordinary lives’ via dedicated film strands.
The festival opens with a cross-culture drama featuring some of the biggest stars from Hollywood and Bollywood. Demi Moore and Freida Pinto star in Love Sonia, which will also be getting its world premiere when it screens in Leicester Square on June 21.
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Love Sonia focuses on two sisters forced into the sex industry in Mumbai, and director Tabrez Noorani (who previously worked on the award-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2008)) has created a story that traverses continents to shed light on the struggle of some 800,000 women and children who are victims of international sex trade every year.
The festival will close on June 29 with a Canadian comedy about a transgender person of Punjabi origin who is about to undergo sex reassignment surgery before discovering they are the father of a teenage boy. Venus (2017) stars Debargo Sanyal, Jamie Mayers and Pierre-Yves Cardina, some of whom are expected to attend the closing night gala at the BFI Southbank.
T for Taj Mahal (2018) uses one of the most impressive landmarks on the planet as the backdrop for an inspirational story of an enterprising villager keen on getting the rest of his friends and neighbours out of the poverty trap. With illiteracy still high in many parts of rural India, the protagonist turns his roadside café near the Taj Mahal into a tourist-teaching centre, where visitors can pay for their food and drink by teaching the youngsters of the village.
The female eye
Six exciting female filmmakers will take to the stage in one of the three thematic strands at the festival. Documentaries as well as short films will be presented, and there will also be a special big-screen outing for Mr India (1987), which features a standout performance from the legendary actress Sridevi, who tragically passed away earlier this year.
Fathers and sons
In Eaten by Lions (2017), a British comedy being screened as part of the ‘fathers and sons’ season, sees teenager Omar searching for his dad on the streets of Blackpool. ‘Fathers and sons’ will showcase a number of films that help examine toxic masculinity and the search for ‘good’ role models.
Finally, there is the ‘extraordinary lives’ series, which includesWhat Will People Say? (2017). The film, written and directed by Iram Haq, follows the story of a first-generation Norwegian teen who clashes with her strict Pakistani émigré parents.
The full list of films and the festival programme are available here.