UK Asian Film Festival 25th Anniversary News

UK Asian Film Festival 2023 will take place from 4th May – 14th May

The running theme for this year’s edition is ‘Celebrating Our Stories,’ which will see the festival screen a series of films that center on the British Asian experience. The festival will open with the UK Premiere of the Hindi-language pic Sanaa at BFI Southbank. The film follows the eponymous Sanaa, a 28-year-old financial advisor working in Mumbai, who discovers she is pregnant. Clear on her decision to terminate her pregnancy, the process of getting the abortion forces Sanaa to re-evaluate her life and if the choices she has been making have really been her own. Lead actor Radhika Madan (Pataakha) and director Sudhanshu Saria (Loev) will attend the screening.

The festival’s closing gala takes place on May 13 at the Kiln Theatre in North West London with the World Premiere of Indian producer Shiladitya Bora’s latest pic Bhagwan Bharose. Set against the backdrop of a rising Hindu nationalist movement in late 1980s India, the pic follows two impressionable kids struggling with their understanding of God and religion. While experiencing the everyday challenges of childhood, a conservative upbringing, and communal surroundings, their idyllic world is blown apart by events that they themselves can no longer fathom. Actors Vinay Pathak (Bheja Fry), Masumeh Makhija, and Satendra Soni will be in attendance alongside Bora.

Other headline screenings across the festival include the world premiere of Whispers Of A Storm by Amartya Bhattacharyya. Set in Odisha, eastern India, the film follows an ambitious photographer who captures the devastation of the coastal villages in the region following Cyclone Fani in 2019 – one of strongest cyclones ever recorded in South Asia. The festival will also debut Footprints On Water by Nathalia Syam. The film is billed as a “gritty account” of an illegal immigrant community in Birmingham. Actor Adil Hussain (Life of Pi), director Nathalia Syam, and producer Mohaan Nadaar will attend the screening.

As part of the festival’s LGBTQ strand, filmmakers S.A. Hanan and Surbhi Dewan will bring their latest pic Trans Kashmir to London. The film is a documentary about Trans people in Pakistan and is billed as an “intimate glimpse” into the marginalized community’s “growing movement to secure basic human rights.” The full doc synopsis reads: Once entertainers and employees of the royal court, transgender women in Kashmir were believed to have mystical powers and were revered members of society. Today, they fight for dignity and basic human rights. For generations, they have worked as matchmakers and performers, but their gender, economic, and socio-political realities render them among the most vulnerable people in the world today.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, the festival will also host a series of panels and events to mark the landmark, including a screening of the landmark British Asian comedy series Goodness Gracious Me. The screening will be followed by a Q&A discussion with writer/actors Meera Syal, Nina Wadia Kulvinder Ghir, and writer Sanjeev Kohli.

The festival is organized by the not-for-profit organization Tongues on Fire and is supported by the BFI and Arts Council England, both awarding funds from the National Lottery.

“When we set up Tongues on Fire, we wanted to create a platform for thought-provoking stories that stimulate meaningful conversations, unpack uncomfortable truths, and challenge patriarchy, said festival founder and Director Dr. Pushpinder Chowdhry.

“It fills us with great pride and joy to open our silver jubilee edition at NFT 1 BFI Southbank with a powerful screening of Sanaa. This unique film has a compelling story that celebrates the journey so far for women’s independence.”

She added: “This is just a glimpse of some of the best gems made by today’s brilliantly talented thinkers who have expertly captured the issues of this time to make enjoyable films that will excite our communities to drive positive change. We remain true to our roots with a power-packed programme celebrating our stories through excellent films, masterclasses, in conversations, live events, and more.”

The UK Asian Film Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this year across UK venues from May 4 — 14.

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