The four-day Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) concluded on Wednesday after screening 92 films from over 40 countries, offering their audience a rich selection of global and Indian cinema to immerse themselves in. The roster included 31 feature films, 21 feature documentaries, and 40 short films.
The 11th edition of the much-awaited festival saw crowds from across India and the world flock to the serene mountain town of Dharamshala, where they got a chance to interact with acclaimed as well as budding filmmakers over tea between the screening of films meticulously curated by the DIFF team.
The unique annual festival brings together the best of contemporary Indian and international films while also allowing the audience to interact with the filmmakers. The setting of the festival broadens the horizons of film students and curious film lovers through multicultural exchanges and helps them reflect on their creativity.
Natasha, who previously worked with DIFF in 2016 and came back this year as an attendee, said that the festival is especially unique because of its setting and curations.
“The programming of the festival is unique. There are films that matter and talk about larger issues. I came here with a blank slate and I am surprised at how much I have enjoyed figuring my way through the festival and watching films back-to-back for four days,” said Natasha, who traveled from Mumbai to attend the festival.
Actor and director Aamir Bashir who came to DIFF with his feature narrative ‘The Winter Within’, which screened on the last day of the festival, also attended screenings of several films and interacted with the audience.
“This festival reminds me of my early days as a student coming to a film festival. The vibe there is of a young audience including filmmakers who are really desperate to see some good films. It makes me feel nostalgic,” said Bashir.
Founded by filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam in 2012, DIFF was established with the objective of fostering an inclusive and non-partisan community gathering place in Dharamshala, where people from diverse backgrounds can unite through the shared language of film.
The festival hosts workshops, masterclasses, and panel discussions in collaboration with filmmakers and experts from all over the world, and also conducts community outreach projects.
Reflecting on this year’s success, Sarin said, “I think we have had more audiences than ever before, we are at a new venue so we can accommodate everyone, and the weather has been amazing. I think it helps to give the festival an atmosphere of pure joy.”
Sonam highlighted the increased diversity among attending filmmakers, contributing to the festival’s vibrant atmosphere.
“More than 40 filmmakers are here, and that adds to the general excitement and atmosphere of the festival when audiences get to interact with the filmmakers,” Sonam told Press Insider.
Both the co-founders hope for a steady increase in footfall in the coming years.
The screening facilities in the small town of Dharamshala are no match for the other festivals organized across India, most of them sponsored by large corporations, but with inflatable theatres and makeshift movie halls, the festival truly comes together with the effort of a stellar production team and student volunteers from all over the country. Even after the success of the festival this year, the DIFF team is aware of the challenges that await them next year.
“Even this year, there were several films where many audience members couldn’t get in, even after standing in line. I know that feeling because I have been to festivals where this has happened to me and it is very disappointing. So we have to figure out how to grow the festival’s reach without that happening. It is going to be a challenge that we have to now take on,” Sonam added.
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