• Vidya Balan and Sanika Patel in 'Natkhat', a short film tackling a big topic. (Indian Film Festival of Melbourne)Source: Indian Film Festival of Melbourne
More than 60 films will be available to watch online over the week-long festival, which kicks off Friday 23 October.
SBS Movies

21 Oct 2020 - 6:14 PM  UPDATED 21 Oct 2020 - 6:14 PM

From the power of a bedtime story to a boy with a knack for mending broken things, the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) will be streaming an intriguing program of more than 60 films from 23 to 30 October.

The annual festival, which has moved its 2020 event online, will screen films in 17 languages, including 34 international premieres and 56 Australian premieres – all of them free of charge.

“Indian filmmakers – from independent short film makers to our most powerful directors – turn their gaze to issues of freedom and equality in the contemporary world and celebrate the diversity that defines us all. Film is a powerful way to bring people together be they sitting in a packed cinema or in 2020, in their own homes,” says IFFM Festival Director, Mitu Bhowmick Lange.

The 2020 Festival features five main program streams of new and classic films from India and the subcontinent. ‘Hurrah Bollywood’, showcasing leading Hindi cinema from the past twelve months; ‘Beyond Bollywood’, art house and cinema in regional Indian languages; ‘Films from the Subcontinent’, featuring films from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal; ‘Film India World’, focussing on Indian films that cross international borders; and the Documentary section. Stand-out highlights include the micro-budget indie noir Lorni The Flaneur, the story of a self-styled detective on the hunt for a missing object; The Illegal, “a timely film about immigrants in the U.S” (Variety); Run Kalyani, a poetic drama about duties, dreams and desires that opened the 2019 New York Indian Film Festival; The Miseducation of Bindu, a dive into the chaotic world of teenagers, and Moti Bagh, a documentary based on the struggle of a farmer in a remote Himalayan village, which is India’s Official entry in this year’s Oscars.

The packed program kicks off on opening night, Friday October 23, with two films addressing disability and gender equality: Vidya Balan’s Natkhat and Nachiket Samant’s Habaddi.

Natkhat (which translates to ‘The Brat’) is a 25-minute film produced by and starring Vidya Balan. One of India’s most powerful and acclaimed actors, widely recognised as pioneering a change in the portrayal of women in Hindi Cinema, Balan plays an abused mother teaching her son about gender equality and empathy through the telling of a simple bedtime story.
“Natkhat makes you confront the reality that most women in this country live on a day to day basis and how we are bringing up children and how if we want to see a change, we have to bring up our children differently,” Balan says of the film.

The feature film Habaddi focuses on kabaddi, a popular contact sport in Southern Asia that first originated in ancient India. When the news that his village’s kabbadi team will be travelling to Mumbai breaks, a 10-year-old boy with a speech impediment sees the opportunity to meet the girl he adores. But will he be able to chant “kabbadi kabbadi” without stammering?

“The story is loosely based on my adopted brother who grew up as an orphan, devoid of social skills and confidence, but with an immensely inquisitive and inventive mind who loved to take apart and put together any gadget in sight. So I developed an Oliver Twist-like orphan who, because of the bullying he encounters, has developed superior agility on one side and stuttering speech on the other. The unique sport of kabaddi requires both - fluent speech as well as speed. This is how we arrived at the story of a ‘broken boy’ who has a knack for mending broken things and by extension, his broken life,” says director Nachiket Samant.

The week-long program ranges from films for children to animation and locally made projects.

All films will be available for viewing free of charge across Australia from October 23 to 30. In recognition of the pressures this year has placed on many people, IFFM is partnering with Mental Health Foundation Australia and encourages festival participants to make a donation when booking. 

The IFFM program will also include a selection of films from the 2020 IFFM Short Film Competition, which this year received more than 3000 entries. The winner will be announced on the final day of the festival.

To view the Festival program go to Iffm.com.au

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