Our Most Anticipated Films of IFFLA 2022

The 20th Anniversary edition of the festival will be held in person at Regal L.A. Live from Apr 28-May 1. Here are 10 recommendations of films you should keep on your radar.

By Daisy Gonzalez, Content Specialist for FREE THE WORK.

Courtesy, IFFLA

Los Angeles is a bedrock of storytelling, home to many festivals dedicated to preserving and showcasing cinema. There is no shortage of places to find a great story and the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles is no exception.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the festival continues to uplift South Asian voices and returns with an in-person iteration set to celebrate storytelling in a communal gathering. The program is comprised of features and shorts that span across live-action, documentary, and animated works.

Known as the best place to discover what’s new in Indian and Indian diaspora cinema, we took a look at their lineup and picked out a few of the gems you should keep an eye out for.

Here’s FREE THE WORK’s guide to the must-watch feature films of IFFLA 2022.

“Rehana”

Courtesy, IFFLA

Rehana is an assistant professor of medicine, notorious for her uncompromising moral compass which has earned her respect and fear in equal measure. No one at her university, however, is prepared for the hungry quest for justice she embarks upon when she discovers that a well-liked professor is abusing a female student, even as the victim herself refuses to speak out against the abuser.

This assured second feature by Abdullah Mohammad Saad, the first film from Bangladesh to compete at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, sheds a sobering light on the normalized abuses our patriarchal society inflicts on its women and the powerful chains that continue to demand silence, leaving us gasping for change. Sure to be a showstopper, you can’t miss Rehana.

“Shankar’s Fairies”

Courtesy, IFFLA

In 1962 post-British Lucknow, Shankar helps run the estate of the local police chief and his wife, who value him strictly within the colonialist class and caste system they’ve inherited. But for one person, Shankar is no doubt the MVP, and that’s Anjana, the chief’s young daughter, who dotes on him and laps up his fantastical stories. He may be without a formal education, but his influence on little Anjana is expansive and deeply endearing.

Based on director Irfana Majumdar’s own childhood and filmed in her family home, Shankar’s Fairies is a marvelous slice of a time gone by. Irfana Majumdar is the founding Artistic Director of the NIRMAN Theatre and Film Studio in Varanasi, India. Shankar’s Fairies is her narrative feature debut and one you should keep on your radar.

“1978” (Short)

Courtesy, IFFLA

In the post-Zulfikar Bhutto regime of 1970s Pakistan, two Christian half-brothers find their artistic sensibilities and minority status under threat: Lenny, a rockstar, has panache galore, which makes female fans swoon, and his younger brother, Thomas, reveres him as if he were Mick Jagger. When Lenny lands a major State-sanctioned gig as a singer, he must decide to either sell out or take the nation to church.

Hamza Bangash is an award-winning Pakistani-Canadian writer and director. He is an alumnus of the Director’s Lab program at the Canadian Film Centre, as well as the Locarno and Asian Filmmakers Academy. The hyper-stylized short evokes the echoes of 1978 Palestine with its maroon and green palette. A wondrous portal through time, 1978 should be on your list.

“Last Film Show”

Courtesy, IFFLA

When his father, a tea stall owner by the railway tracks, takes young Samay to the movies for the first time, kiddo is completely mesmerized. He starts skipping school to visit the local movie house, where he befriends the kind projectionist who offers an irresistible trade: free access to movies for his mother’s delicious lunches. Samay’s infatuation grows, until one day the theater switches to digital projection. The enterprising boy enlists his school friends to create their own DIY movie theater, but in the ebullience of discovery, he takes things too far.

The opening night film for IFFLA is sure to be a stunner. A wondrous ode to cinema, Last Film Show is an enchanting ride through a child’s point of view on the magic of the motion picture. Four-time IFFLA alum Pan Nalin’s semi-autobiographical fable will surely charm audiences.

“Invisible Demons”

Courtesy, IFFLA

An evocative journey through Delhi’s multi-pronged environmental disaster is guided by testimonies of those whose daily lives bear witness to the very real and dangerous cost of India’s unchecked growth as a capitalist economy.

Produced by Participant, Rahul Jain’s follow-up to Machines is an intimate climate change story that reflects the dangers of the ongoing crisis in Delhi. Avoiding the alarm bells of a typical climate change documentary, Jain’s stunning cinematography invites audiences to thoughtfully engage and reflect on the events unfolding. Coming off its premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film festival, Invisible Demons is sure to be an enlightening experience.

“Lalanna’s Song” (Short)

Courtesy, IFFLA

Two disenchanted girlfriends, played with fearless immediacy by Parvathy Thiruvothu and Rima Kallingal, shepherd their young kids to a birthday party. Overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood and shaken by an incident of racial profiling they experience on the way, they are unprepared to meet Lalanna, a precocious preteen girl who suavely pushes their buttons. Seeming to possess all the promise and confidence the two women have lost, Lalanna unleashes within them a merciless instinct to set her straight.

A psychological horror film with bite, Lalanna’s Song is a sharp meditation on the female experience. Just like Lalanna herself, the film pushes buttons and encourages audiences to think about the ways they may encourage the passing of generational trauma and the omnipresent cycles of violence. This powerful short is sure to leave you in awe.

“Succulent” (Short)

Courtesy, IFFLA

First-time filmmaker Amrita Bagchi arrives at IFFLA with a captivating sci-fi tale following ‘M’ (Merenla Imsong), a quiet plant lover who is employed by an odd social services agency that asks her to study the lives of its members’ lost or distant loved ones and then…become them.

A loving and curious reflection on our yearning for human connection, loneliness, and grief, Bagchi’s absurdist style calls to mind the DANIELS' recent Everything Everywhere All At Once. As the world continues to reel the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Succulent arrives with a balm in hand to help make sense of the impossible.

“Close Ties To Home Country” (Short)

Courtesy, IFFLA

Akanksha is a young South Asian woman studying in the US on a scholarship and, like many others like her, she picks up side hustles to earn some money. Coming in touch with white opulence and entitlement when she takes on a job as a dog-sitter, she assesses the stark and often absurd ways in which her life as a legal alien differs from the lives of people around her.

Director Akanksha Cruczynski’s graduate thesis film “Close Ties to Home Country” premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and won the Student Academy Award. A sobering look at immigrant life in the United States, Close To Home explores the ways in which a person can be considered not enough for not just their new home, but also the place we used to call home.

“The Return” (Short)

Courtesy, IFFLA

When filmmaker Hena Ashraf is suddenly thrown into the depths of grief, she tries to make sense of it all in the way she knows best. She picks up her camera and retraces her life — her troubled relationship with her father, her struggle as an immigrant, and the pressure to come out to her family.

A hybrid of fiction and documentary filmmaking, The Return explores what it means to forgive your past and your present. Through this unique approach, Ashraf is able to create a vulnerability that allows audiences to connect to her story. You won’t see anything else like this.

“7 STAR DINOSOR ENTERTAINMENT” (Short)

Courtesy, IFFLA

The exodus of migrant workers back to the villages from cities in India during COVID-19, finds a fantastical, playful yet empathetic representation and comment in Vaishali Naik’s debut about two brothers who dress up as dinosaurs and perform at sundry events.

The still provided for the festival alone is a moment. A little bit Spielberg combined with the outlandish and personal touches from director Vaishali Naik, 7 Star Dinosor Entertainment is a romp that will take audiences through the day in the life of the two siblings taking life’s absurdities one day at a time.

Check out the full lineup at IFFLA here.

Daisy Gonzalez is the Content Specialist for FREE THE WORK. You can connect with her via culture@freethework.com and by following FREE THE WORK on Twitter and Instagram.

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