The annual UK Asian Film Festival opens today across five cities, marking its 21st anniversary with a curation inspired by the theme of Revolution.
Also known as Tongues on Fire, the event is known to champion South Asian feminist films and support female artists. This year it also covers the #MeToo movement and the recent decriminalisation of gay sex in India.
The festival opens with a Gala screening of Hamid at The May Fair Hotel, London, featuring a Q&A with a Bollywood icon, Zeenat Aman. A big star in the 1970s and 1980s, Aman was known as a revolutionary actress in the history of Indian cinema who redefined the archetypal heroine with her unconventional roles.
A younger and currently very popular Indian actress, Radhika Apte, is also attending the festival where, in one of the events, she’ll talk about the changing face of the Indian film and television industry. Another important guest at the festival is Ramesh Sippy, whose 1975 film, Sholay, inspired by spaghetti westerns, is one of the most popular Bollywood films of all time. He will be discussing his cinematic journey at the Flame Awards Gala on 7th April.
The festival will have world premieres of the works of several female filmmakers. The Pakistani director Shazia Ali Khan’s Pinky Memsaab depicts lives of south Asians in Dubai. The Indian filmmaker Madhumita’s KD is about an 80 year old man whose children want him dead so that they can grab his wealth.
Some of the films coming to this festival show the changing face of India. Roopa Barua’s documentary Daughters of the Polo God tells the story of young women playing the traditional male dominated game of polo despite adversity in north eastern India. Sridhar Rangyan’s Evening Shadows is about a young gay man growing up in a small town in southern India. Mayur Kataria’s Ek Aasha is about a transgender girl’s struggle to become a teacher.
One of Britain’s leading women’s groups fighting for the rights of black and Asian women, Southall Black Sisters, is marking its 40th anniversary this year and to celebrate that, the festival is showing four films, one for each decade of the group’s history. The films include Provoked which is based on the story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, an Indian woman who came to international attention after burning her husband to death in 1989 in the UK. Her conviction to life in prison was overturned after a campaign by Southall Black Sisters. Other films curated by the group for the festival are Burning An Illusion, My Beautiful Laundrette and Brick Lane.
The UK Asian Film Festival runs until 7th April in London, before a four-week tour of England and Scotland, visiting Leicester, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.