Indian Film Festival of L.A. Honors "Sita Sings The Blues," "Children Of The Pyre"

The 7th Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles announced its 2009 Award winners with Nina Paley’s SITA SINGS THE BLUES as the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature and Nandita Das’s FIRAAQ receiving an Honorable Mention in the category. Rajesh Jala’s CHILDREN OF THE PYRE was named as the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary. Dipti Gogna’s NARMEEN won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short with Sushrut Jain’s ANDHERI receiving an Honorable Mention.
Audience Choice Awards went to Sooni Taraporevala’s LITTLE ZIZOU for Narrative, Faiza Ahmad Khan’s SUPERMEN OF MALEGAON for Documentary and Gregg Helvey’s KAVI for the Short Film category.
Christina Marouda, IFFLA Director, said, “This film festival has been a pivotal one in celebrating the impressive diversity of filmmaking styles and vision from both well known Indian filmmakers and new cinematic voices emerging in the Indian filmmaking community. And the award winners only highlighted that fact. IFFLA also took another important step in establishing itself as a key annual event for the Hollywood and Indian entertainment business community to come together and collaborate.”

In Nina Paley’s animated film SITA SINGS THE BLUES, the mythological story of Rama and Sita is retold from a modern and refreshingly female perspective. Three shadow puppets form a hilarious chorus as they relate the story of goddess Sita’s separation from Lord Rama focusing on the lesser known parts of the story, after her rescue, which challenge the whole notion of devotion and purity. Nina’s own romantic misadventures parallel Sita’s journey as she follows her husband across the world to India only to get dumped via email for her troubles. The whole thing is jazzed up, literally, by musical interludes set to the 1920’s vocals of Annette Hanshaw.  In her first feature length film, Nina Paley audaciously weaves multiple narrative and visual styles giving each story thread its own distinctively unique look. But the film’s technical daring would go to waste without her wonderfully witty script which lives up to its tagline as “The Greatest Breakup Story Ever Told.”

Rajesh S. Jala’s documentary CHILDREN OF THE PYRE reveals that every day and night countless bodies are cremated along the Ganges River in Varanasi. The work required to sustain the endless operation of the cremation grounds has drawn young children desperate to make a living in any way possible. Often working together and surviving off of the beautiful silk shrouds they collect and resell, these children unapologetically tell their own stories of living and working in the midst of so much death. At times darkly funny and at others deeply morose, CHILDREN OF THE PYRE humanizes these children forced to grow up before their time.
Cast: Annette Hanshaw, Aseem Chhabra, Manish Acharya, Bhavana Nagulapally, Reena Shah
DIR: Nandita Das
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Tisca Chopra, Paresh Rawal, Deepti Naval, Raghuveer Yadav
DIR: Rajesh Jala
DIR: Dipti Gogna
DIR: Sushrut Jain
DIR: Sooni Taraporevala
Cast: Boman Irani, Sohrab Ardeshir, Zenobia Shroff, Shernaz Patel, Imaad Shah, John Abraham
DIR: Faiza Ahmad Khan
DIR: Gregg Helvey

The Indian Film festival of Los Angeles kicked off with the Opening Night Gala presentation of Anand Surapur’s THE FAKIR OF VENICE on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at the ArcLight Hollywood Cinemas in Hollywood. The evening’s festivities also included an after party at Crimson & Opera featuring culinary delights by Chakra Cuisine and performances by DJ Sandeep Kumar and Indian/Bollywood Fusion dance and drama team Project Pulse. Opening Night also featured the official launch of CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s and Suneel Gupta’s Kahani Movement. The brothers are co-founders of the film project to capture and share stories from Indians that immigrated to the United States. Kahani accomplishes this by motivating second-generation Indian Americans to pick up a camera, interview their parents, and then post that footage to a central website.
Other highlights included a salute to Bollywood legend Anil Kapoor one of Indian cinema’s most significant and popular personalities which included screenings of Kapoor’s classic films LAMHE (1991) and VIRASAT (1997) as well as the world premiere of the English language version of Kapoor’s production of GANDHI, MY FATHER (2007). IFFLA also continued its ongoing commitment to supporting and showcasing restored prints of Indian classic films, as it paid homage to BR Chopra by screening his classic, NAYA DAUR.
The presentation of the 2009 IFFLA Industry Leadership Award to Richard Fox and Amit Khanna took place on Thursday, April 23 at the House of Blues in West Hollywood. Fox is the Executive Vice President of Warner Bros. International and heads up all of Warner Bros.’ non-US initiatives in all phases of the entertainment industry. Khanna is the Chairman of Reliance BIG Entertainment, the media arm of the $75 billion Ambani Group that recently completed its purchase of Dreamworks and announced that it would spend $1 billion on the Indian film and entertainment business. Presenting the awards were Walt Disney International Chairman Andy Bird and Deborah Bothun, entertainment media and communications advisory leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The event also included a musical performance by Gingger Shankar.
IFFLA’s popular Rhythm Village, presented by Rukus Avenue, featured free public outdoor entertainment at the ArcLight Hollywood Cinemas courtyard including performances by the entertaining and eclectic talent assembled are the South Asian acapella group Andaaz; performing duo The Dyad; “conscious” music artist Hoodini; the desi outfit O.C.P.; IFFLA alumni and sketch performer Rasika Mathur; experimental fusion group, The Rhetoricalz; and singer songwriter and multi-instramentalist Tasneem Nanji.
The festival closed with the IFFLA Closing Night Gala presentation of YES MADAM, SIR on Sunday, April 26 at ArcLight Hollywood. A documentary profiling Dr. Kiran Bedi, the first woman to join the Indian Police Service and a controversial and inspiring figure in India. Dr. Bedi attended the festival as a guest of honor that evening along with director, Doneman. The evening concluded with an after party at The Cabana Club, which once again featured culinary delights by Chakra Cuisine and performances by DJ Sandeep Kumar and Indian/Bollywood Fusion dance and drama team Project Pulse.
The 2009 IFFLA lineup showcased 21 features (16 narrative and 5 documentary) and 16 shorts for a total of 37 films representing 5 countries.


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