Cinema is traditionally an indoor experience, with dark, cold movie theatres, recliner seats, surround sound, and annoying little whispers. Let’s not forget the overpriced popcorn and drinks. It’s all part of the experience. But for a moment, imagine yourself sitting with a hot cup of chai at an elevation of 1400 ft, under the open pink skies with chilly winds grazing you against the mountain backdrops and a brilliant list of films to view from all around the world. This is what the Dharamshala International Film Festival is all about.
This Film Festival was launched in 2012 by filmmakers and Dharamshala residents, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam with an aim to give the local community a platform to watch good alternative cinema. Eleven years later, DIFF has become one of India’s leading independent film festivals and attracts audiences from across the country. In 2020, DIFF was the first and only major film festival in India to go entirely online. This extended the reach of DIFF across South Asia and enabled many new viewers to participate in the festival. Named by The Asian Age as “India’s Sundance”, DIFF has gained a reputation for its eclectic and adventurous programming, the beautiful mountain setting, and its intimate and cinema-literate atmosphere.
From a sleepy town in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dharamshala has transformed into a cosmopolitan zone. It’s also home to the spiritual leader Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Diaspora. The town’s understated and thriving environment of cafes, bookstores, restaurants and art organizations has made it a magnet for tourists, filmmakers, artists, wanderers and the like. It’s the same environment alight with inspiration that gives DIFF its unique ambience.
This year, the annual film festival is back with some diverse national and international features, documentaries and short films. A New Old Play, Dhuin, Pedro, Neptune Frost, and Once Upon a Time in Calcutta are just some of the feature films screening this year. Documentaries like Taangh, Terra Femme, and The Eclipse can also be seen during the festival. The lucky attendees of DIFF will get to witness the work of some remarkable creators from the French acclaimed animation director Florence Miailhe to Native Indie master Achal Mishra. DIFF 2022 is going to be a sweet concoction of cinematic tours de force.
Harkat Studios will also be conducting a beginner’s celluloid film workshop at DIFF 2022. This intimate and personal workshop is designed for a small group of 10 participants ending with a screening of the final film made, with the artists playing projectionists for their own work. It will be facilitated by Simran Ankolkar, Tanya Dixit and Karan Suri Talwar. This workshop will comprise of understanding the medium of 16mm black and white reversal film, hand developing film in a dark room, and using a 16mm film projector. For filmmakers and cinephiles, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn and relish in the charm of the analogue. So if you are into it, apply ASAP because seats are limited.
The 11th edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival will be held at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in McLeod Ganj from 3rd to 6th November 2022. DIFF also has a Virtual Viewing Room which will host the hybrid version of the festival from 3rd November. So choose your poison; take a trip to the winter capital of Himachal Pradesh or cosy up in your own living space for the hybrid, just make sure you don’t miss this one-of-a-kind celebration of all things cinema.
To find out more about the passes, destination, routes and lineup, visit their website.