By Radhika Bhirani, Leh, June 26 IANS | 2 months ago

Imagine sitting beneath a star-studded sky, at an open air movie screening in the lap of nature and at an altitude of 11,00 feet in Jammu and Kashmir's Leh region. Blissful, isn't it?


The organisers of the Ladakh International Film Fest (LIFF), starting here Friday, are geared to give movie buffs a chance to experience this and more with the third edition of the event.

With 136 domestic and international films to be screened over three days, LIFF will "hopefully be bigger and better this time", Melwyn Williams, founder and festival director, Maruti Suzuki LIFF, said in a statement.

An opener like Kamal Swaroop's National Award winning non-feature film "Rangbhoomi", a green carpet Asian premiere of Anurag Kashyap's "Ugly", a showcase of Hollywood's latest actioner "Transformers: Age Of
Extinction", book launches, a retrospective on Guru Dutt, tributes to the late Farooque Sheikh and Nanda, an acting workshop for children by Amole Gupte
and a special focus on Korea - such are the activities planned for the movie gala in the picturesque and pristine surroundings
of Little Tibet.

But the journey to make the event a notch higher than past editions hasn't come without its share of struggle for the organisers.

"It has been our biggest disappointment that the government has shown no support for infrastructure. We are putting the best of our efforts to make the venues and theatres doable. We have been running from pillar to post to get a projector for a planned open air screening of 'Tranformers...' at Druk White Lotus School, made famous by Aamir Khan's '3 Idiots', and
meeting ends to put generator sets in place so that everything goes smoothly.

"No complaints, but surely, some support is always welcome," Williams said.

The infrastructure to screen movies is still very basic in Leh, with just one 500-seater auditorium. Still, LIFF attracts local audiences and tourists to catch up on international cinema. Williams says the "biggest
impact" that LIFF has had is to have brought in winds of "change in the cinematic grammar" in the region.

Agrees acclaimed filmmaker Govind Nihalani, who heads the LIFF jury this year.

"It has been a pioneering effort to conceive and execute a film festival in a terrain such as Ladakh, and to expose Ladakhi filmmakers to some of the best movies and filmmakers from across the world. Ladakh had a fledgling film industry, which has galvanised itself post LIFF and enthused the local filmmakers to dream big," Nihalani has said.

He too believes that "with the administration pitching in with better facilities, it will be a big boost to local business with more filmmakers choosing Ladakh as a viable option (for shooting)."

Nihalani will be joined on the jury by film critic Klaus Eder, general secretary of International Federation of Film Critics, and Maxine Williamson,

Head, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, among others.

There will be movies galore - from places like Iran, Syria, Cuba, Assam, Manipur and Kolkata, as well as entertainers like "The Lunchbox" and "English Vinglish" - all catering to viewers of different kinds.

Apart from the film screenings and other movie-related events, LIFF has also taken on responsibility towards the environment. Like every year, the organisers will go for releasing fish into the Indus River.

The expected guest list for the gala includes names like Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Madhur Bhandarkar, Deepti Naval, Amole Gupte and Anurag Kashyap.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

(Posted on 26-06-2014)