Divide through cinema
The India Film Festival of Alberta (IFFA) was created as a way to bring a deeper understanding of East Indian culture to those unfamiliar. The Edmonton Movie Club established the festival back in 2015, screening films in Edmonton, Calgary, and Fort McMurray. However, with an almost immediate outpouring of positive response, they knew it was only a matter of time until the festival expanded.
“The IFFA now screens in six cities, the additions being Peace River, Red Deer and Cold Lake,” says the club’s Executive Director Madhan Selvaraj. “There’s been strong support, so we are happy with the way things are turning out.”
For 2017, the IFFA will be presenting 13 films in nine languages, including English. Some of the films being screened have already received acclaim and awards in both India and abroad. In particular, Lipstick Under My Burka is one of the most anticipated films to be featured this year. It tells the story of four Indian women who seek independence from the societal pressures they feel within their communities.
“It’s about their secret desires, their secret dreams, and acts of rebellion to help them find breathing space,” director Alankrita Shrivasta said in an interview with the L.A. Times.
The film was originally denied a censor certificate for release in India due to language and situations of a sexual nature. For those of us who consider ourselves regular consumers of North American cinema, the decision to ban a movie based solely on that merit would give one pause. In fact, sexual innuendo, graphic content and strong language have become all but requirement for movies in the west.
Lipstick Under My Burka appealed the decision to India’s Appelate Tribunal in early 2017. After Shrivasta made a few voluntary edits—none of which changed the overall tone of the film—the ruling was overturned.
The IFFA’s screening of Lipstick Under My Burka will be the first time the film is seen in Canada. In fact, it will also precede its Indian debut, which is set for later next week.
In addition to the controversial film, the IFFA has chosen movies that cover a wide range of topics, including India’s biggest blockbuster ever, Bahubali 2, and an independent art film entitled Mukti Bhavan, the latter of which discusses the Hindu concept of ‘moksha.’
The festival is also expected to include music, dancing and food.
“We try to paint a whole cultural picture,” says Selvaraj. “It’s actually the core objective behind why we started the Edmonton Movie Club.”
The cuisine showcased will include three courses, one of which is a popular East Indian appetizer called Vada—dumplings made from split black gram beans and soaked in a yogurt sauce. Selvaraj says most of the food will be made in Edmonton, as smaller cities like Peace River and Cold Lake have yet to see an established East Indian food scene.