6 Brilliant Indie Films You Need To Watch (Instead Of The Clichéd Masala)

Posted on September 30, 2016 in Culture-Vulture

By Shambhavi Saxena:

Independent cinema often gets typecast as the reserve of highbrow grad students and urban elite, but really it’s a fantastic field for telling the stories that mainstream media routinely glosses over, or does a poor job of. In India, the indie-film scene is a burgeoning phenomenon in its own right, and annual events have been promoting some really great cinema. Each year, new and innovative indie films, in both, documentary and feature format, are expanding our relationship with cinema. And if you’re hankering for a slice of this super-interesting genre, here are six indie films that you should definitely watch:

1. Sonita

The history of rap music is revolutionary, and even today it offers up comment about racial violence in the USA (like Noname’s “Casket Pretty“) or the militarisation of Kashmir (like MC Kash’s “Heart Of A Rebel“). And this film by Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami brings us back to the revolutionary charge of rap music. It follows a teenager named Sonita, who is an Afghan refugee living in Iran. She’s got so much fire, and dreams of becoming a musician, but her family has other plans in store for her – to sell her off as a bride. Exploring one of the many faces of an entrenched patriarchy, Ghaem Maghami’s documentary promises to be a moving account of a young woman’s quest for self-hood.

2. Kammattipaadam

With much of the drama and intensity we’ve come to know and love of Malayalam cinema, director Ravi Rajeev’s film is the gangster epic for all you action-buffs. It follows the story of two friends – a young savarna man named Krishnan, and a Dalit man named Ganga – in a time and a place where divisions of caste are as violent as they are prominent. The upper-caste mafia uses Dalit gangsters to usurp land, and as tensions build, they have an impact on more than just human relationships, but the social terrain itself.

3. A Syrian Love Story

From British filmmaker Sean McAllister, comes a documentary about the Arab Spring – the revolutionary protests and demonstrations – that spread across several Middle Eastern countries in 2010-2011. However, this one is rather different from most that you’ve seen. The larger-than-life politics forms the backdrop to the moving story of Amer and Raghda, who are comrades and lovers, navigating the difficult circumstances that surround them.

4. A Korean In Paris

With a dream-like vision of the Parisian landscape, seen from a listless young Korean man’s point of view, Jeon Soo-il’s film promises to be an interesting, eclectic experience. Sang Ho, who doesn’t speak a word of French, winds his way through the European city to find his wife, who mysteriously disappeared during their honeymoon two years ago. If you’re a fan of the weirdly aesthetic, you’re definitely going to want to watch this one.

5. Lathe Joshi

In India, the collision course of skilled labour and highly mechanised work has meant several different things for several different populations. But for Lathe Joshi, the protagonist of this film who becomes trapped in a prison of automatic actions and statistics and numbers, globalisation has a devastating effect not just on his economic independence, but also on his very sense of identity. Directed by Mangesh Joshi, this film is bound to push you to think about the tense and changing landscape of India, and what it means for the average person.


6. The Island Funeral

Thailand’s veteran filmmaker and the country’s first female director, Pimpaka Towira weaves a complex and layered story in this film. It follows a young Thai woman named Laila, who leaves Bangkok for the Southern province of Pattani to visit her aunt. Accompanied by her brother and his friend, she discovers that over the years Pattani has been ravaged by religious conflict.

So if you’re looking to get away from all the masala-dhamaka of commercial Indian cinema, run to the hills. These six films, and many more, are going to be screened at the fifth edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival. Since its inception in 2012, the festival aims “To create a truly meaningful, non-partisan cultural platform to engage and involve all communities that inhabit the area—Indians, Tibetan refugees and expatriates—in order to promote mutual understanding, foster harmony and offer exposure to contemporary forms of creative expression.” This year it will also feature a special Children’s Film Programme, curated by Monica Wahi.

“Bringing independent cinema to the mountains,” goes the festival tag line, and this year it will be held at a brand new venue – the Tibetan Children’s Village in McLeodganj. The festival starts on Nov. 3, and is spread over four days, and is definitely something you should put on your itinerary this coming winter season!

For the full festival programme, click here.