UK Asian Film Festival to honor Shabana Azmi, Karisma Kapoor and showcase brilliant films this May!

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The world’s longest-running South Asian film festival, outstanding UK Asian Film Festival, is ready to present a spectacular line-up of films and special events throughout it’s run opening on the 2nd and closing 12th May in venues across London, Leicester, and Oxford.

UK Asian Film Festival annually hosts an eclectic mix of films, a thought-provoking lecture series, audience workshops, live performances, visual arts exhibitions, masterclasses, and the annual Short Film Competition. It celebrates the very best in films with a link to South Asia and the myriad dimensions of South Asian arts and culture. “We aim to celebrate, award, and reward great films, filmmakers, and artists from South Asia. The festival provides a unique platform for Asians working in film and media around the world. Our screenings and events include feature films, documentaries, short films, panel discussions, and educational and community screenings. Cinema is a magical place. It appeals to all our senses, plugs into other people’s experiences and offers an alternate perspective. Watching a film at the cinema is a shared experience where you go on a collective journey with the rest of the audience. The tears, laughter, joy, and suspense are experienced through a brief window into another world. What is more amazing than that? Our passion for South Asian arts and cinema remains as resilient and strong as it did when Tongues on Fire began.”

The full programme of this prestigious festival has just been revealed and we have the details!

UK Asian Film Festival has historically championed South Asian female-centric cinema and women in film – both behind and in front of the camera. Its programmes have annually sought to disrupt the patriarchal status quo and initiate challenging conversations in its mission to advocate and promote gender equality in cinema. UK Asian Film Festival Creative Director, Samir Bhamra says, “We are at a critical juncture of political and economic uncertainty, and something has to shift globally. Our festival provides a vital platform to see amazing films, amplify voices, ignite conversations and make new connections with empathy. Now more than ever, cinema is a conduit for change. I hope our programme inspires all communities to embrace the complexities of our world with courage, love and action to bridge divides.”

This year’s Climate of Change theme reflects the sense that the air is shifting in our society; that we are ready to move on from the experiences of the recent past. To navigate this journey through film, the UKAFF programme brings inspiration, joy and moments of delight. Cinema is a tool for change as it brings people closer together; it sparks conversations; amplifies voices; and builds empathy. Stories guide us to confront the complexities of our world with bravery, compassion and action.”

For the first time, UK Asian Film Festival will host its Opening Gala at BFI IMAX, London, presenting the World Premiere of Minimum (India/ Belgium, 2024; Language: English, Hindi and French with English subtitles), the directorial debut of U.S.-born Belgian actor, Rumana Molla, on Thursday 2nd May. A touching drama set in Belgium, Minimum centres around the trials and tribulations of a newlywed Indian woman Fauzia, who travels to Belgium following an arranged marriage over the phone, only to find herself trapped in a web of lies and misgivings. As new friendships are formed and secrets are revealed, Fauzia embarks on a journey of self-discovery and learns to demand more than bare minimum from life. In attendance will be director, Rumana Molla; actors, Saba Azad and Namit Das; and producer, Shiladitya Bora. An additional screening will take place on Friday 10th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

The Closing Film will be the UK Premiere of acclaimed actor Anshuman Jha’s directorial debut, Lord Curzon Ki Haveli (India, 2023; Language: Hindi with English subtitles), on Saturday 11th May at Regent Street Cinema, London. The black comedy-thriller tells the story of four South Asians abroad in the UK, who meet over an impromptu dinner that leads to a murderous night. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director, Anshuman Jha; and actors, Rasika Dugal, Zoha Rahman and Garrick Hagon. An additional screening and introduction by director Anshuman Jha will take place on Sunday 12th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

The festival’s Closing Gala on Sunday 12th May at Kiln Theatre, London will host the annual UK Asian Film Festival Awards presentation and will welcome luminaries from Indian cinema in conversation onstage: celebrated playback and classical singer, Kavita Krishnamurthy, who will be felicitated with the Lifetime Achievement Award; plus actress, Karisma Kapoor, who will be felicitated for her Contribution to Hindi Cinema.

Among this year’s programme, the UK Premiere of Gunjal (Pakistan, 2023; Dir: Shoiab Sultan; Language: Urdu with English subtitles) will take place on Friday 3rd May at Regent Street Cinema. The film tells the story of Shahbaz Bhatti, a journalist in a Punjabi city, covering the acquittal of a man charged with murdering a 12-year-old labour activist. Recognising inconsistencies and loopholes in the verdict, he starts digging to find the truth, one lead at a time. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with associate producers, Zara Adams and Shelby Elwood. An additional screening will take place on Saturday 11th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

As part of the festival’s LGBTQ strand, the Emerging Curators’ Gala screening of Blue Sunshine (India, 2023; Dir: Samyukhta Vijayan; Language: Tamil with English subtitles) on Friday 3rd May at Rich Mix, London presents the impressive feature debut from writer-director Samyuktha Vijayan. The film derives its strength and sincerity from the measured performance by Vijayan, who draws on her own experience as a transgender woman, carefully toeing the line between sensitivity and tenacity, and offers audiences an authentic and deeply personal insight into the transgender experience in contemporary Indian society. A tender and poignant drama about gender transition, Blue Sunshine follows the journey of Aravind, a male school teacher as he transitions into a woman, Bhanu, against societal prejudices and adversities in a small town in South India. Six months after Aravind begins his hormone treatment while keeping his true identity concealed from his colleagues and parents, when he’s forced into an arranged marriage owing to his parents’ financial hardship, he finally finds the courage to quit living a double life and embraces his true identity as Bhanu. Despite support from close friends, however, Bhanu is challenged at every step, with life becoming more complicated when she decides to stand up for her non-binary student, Karthik.

The UK Premiere of Of God’s Men (UK, 2024; Dir: Waheed Iqbal; Language: English) on Saturday 4th May at Rich Mix, London is a thought-provoking, British Asian family drama that revolves around the existential crisis of a troubled Muslim man as he draws closer to God, following a suicide attempt. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director, Waheed Iqbal, and 1st AD, Sabrina Nabi.


Marking 40 years of the anti-Sikh riots, on Monday 6th May at Beck Theatre, London, acclaimed filmmaker, Shonali Bose, will be presenting her award-winning film, Amu (India, 2005; Language: English). The film originally premiered at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival and won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English. The critically-acclaimed drama about the tragic, 1984 anti-Sikh riots is based on Bose’s own novel of the same name. It tells the story of Kaju, a 21-year-old Indian American woman, who returns to India to visit her family and discover her birthplace, only to stumble upon secrets and lies from her past. A horrifying genocide that took place 20 years earlier turns out to hold the key to her mysterious origins.

A Special Tribute Screening of late Tibetan auteur Pema Tseden’s Snow Leopard (Tibet, 2023; Language: Tibetan and Chinese with English subtitles) will take place on Wednesday 8th May at The Garden Cinema, London. Described as a pioneer of the Tibetan New Wave, Tseden’s final completed feature, which premiered in 2023 at Venice and Toronto International Film Festival, is set in the vast and stunning Tibetan terrain and uses the fabled creature to pose and probe the universal question of tradition versus modernity. The issue of extinction and preservation is central to the film and reflects the Eastern philosophical wisdom of co-existence versus dominance. The screening will be followed by a live, dranyen lute performance by Tibetan mountain and folk singer, Ngawang Lodup. An additional screening will take place on Sunday 12th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

The European Premiere of Buelwa (Bhutan, 2023; Dir: Charmi Chheda, Language: Dongkha with English subtitles) will take place on Wednesday 8th May at Rich Mix, London. The film is about the trials and tribulations in the lives of three friends grappling with their inner aspirations and worldly distractions, seen through the eyes of a monk who is forced to venture beyond his spiritual cocoon and confront real world challenges.

Legendary actress Supriya Pathak Kapur will be in attendance at the World Premiere of her latest film, Baby Crasto (India, 2024; Dir: Jesal Shah; Language: Hindi with English subtitles), taking place on Wednesday 8th May at Harrow Arts Centre, London. The film presents the story of Jako, a small-time gambler, and Vasu, a petty robber around Goa, whose paths cross at the Blue Bird Shack. Jako, looking for his ex-wife Maria, owes a huge sum of money to the local Goan mafia and needs Maria to sign off on their property. Vasu needs money to marry his hooker girlfriend who has served him an ultimatum. Both find out at the motel that Maria is on the run for robbing her landlady, Baby Crasto, and is wanted by the Goa police. However the locals at the shack believe that Maria is not a thief and that the old lady, Baby Crasto, is a cranky trouble maker, falsely accusing Maria. All hell breaks loose on the fateful night of Baby’s 60th birthday party, revealing a series of bizarre incidents about Baby, the secret of the prized money and missing Maria. An additional screening will take place on Saturday 11th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

Also part of the festival’s LGBTQ strand this year will be the World Premiere of Kuch Sapney Apne (India/ Sweden, 2024; Dir: Sridhar Rangayan; Language: Hindi with English subtitles) – a sensitive and heartwarming film about a gay couple based in Mumbai and their life struggles, while their family members back home in a small town face new challenges that force everyone to redefine their relationships. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director, Sridhar Rangayan, and producer, Pragyesh Singh. An additional screening and Q&A will take place on Saturday 11th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

Creative Minds of Tomorrow at BFI Southbank on Saturday 4th May will comprise a day of screenings and events commencing with Reuben Library talks discussing new writings about South Asian cinema culture. Dr. J. Daniel Luther, Associate Programme Director, The Rhodes Trust, University of Oxford; and Sunny Singh, Professor of Creative Writing and Inclusion in the Arts, London Metropolitan University will discuss their newly published works. In Queering Normativity And South Asian Public Culture – Wrong Readings Only, J. Daniel Luther explores a wide range of issues, from the construct of canon and notions of nation, marriage and home to women as a post-colonial subject, same-sex sexuality and identity. Sunny Singh’s A Bollywood State Of Mind is a personal, intellectual and emotional journey that crosses five continents and 50 years of modern Indian history and cinema to explore why Bollywood means so much to so many across the globe.

Aligned to this year’s festival theme, fashion sustainability will be celebrated with maverick Indian designer, Rina Dhaka, as she discusses her environmentally-friendly collections and career trajectory alongside a runway show of her most iconic pieces over the years.

Industry Workshops in the BFI’s Blue Room will bridge the gap between audiences and industry experts through workshops developing skills; discovering career pathways; and implementing practical approaches to fulfil creative potential in cinema. Among the speakers on the day are Civic Studios, Whistling Woods, Resource Productions, Shorts TV, Queen Mary University and BFI.

The day will culminate in two NFT screenings: Behroze Gandhy’s Flight – a tense and moving drama following a young Asian woman as she flees domestic abuse; and a Shorts Programme exploring environmental change in drama, organised as part of Creative Minds of Tomorrow (CMOT) by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) India in association with Shorts TV. Flight will also be screened in at Saturday 11th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

Magical Melodies: Celebrating Mohd Rafi on Sunday 5th May at Elliott Hall, Harrow Arts Centre will celebrate the 100-year musical journey of the legendary, late Mohammed Rafi. Recognised as one of the most revered Indian playback singers, Rafi’s soulful melodies have left an everlasting impact across generations. The event will feature an insightful conversation and unique glimpse into the life and legacy of the musical icon with Rizwan Rafi, Rafi’s grandson. 515 Crew, featuring lead singers Chirag Rao and Amar, will continue the evening with renditions of Rafi’s timeless classics over the decades.

The Short Film Competition on Sunday 5th May at Rich Mix, London will present a collection of ten diverse and compelling shorts made by emerging and established directors of South Asian Heritage, working across documentary, drama and experimental genres. Covering a wide range of themes, each short will invite the audience to step into the artist’s world and experience their rich and complex take on life through heartfelt and deeply human stories.

Celebrating The Golden Girl: Shabana Azmi on Tuesday 7th May at Somerville College, Oxford will celebrate 50 industry years of veteran Indian actress, Shabana Azmi – globally recognised for her work in both Indian and mainstream television, theatre and film. Azmi will be felicitated for her portrayals of distinctive, often unconventional female characters across several genres, following a screening at Phoenix Picturehouse of her pioneering film, Fire (India, 1996; Dir: Deepa Mehta; Language: English). The event and dinner will help raise funds to support the scholarships programme at The Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development.
Continuing the celebration of Azmi’s 50 years in industry, the actress will be in conversation onstage following screenings of some of her cult and contemporary classics: Ankur (India, 1974; Dir: Shyam Benegal; Language: Hindi with English subtitles) on Wednesday 8th May at Khalil Lecture Room, SOAS, London; Mandi (India, 1983; Dir: Shyam Benegal; Language: Hindi with English subtitles) on Thursday 9th May at Phoenix, Leicester; and Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (Idia, 2023; Dir: Karan Johar; Language: Hindi with English subtitles) on Thursday 9th May at Phoenix, Leicester.

UK Asian Film Festival Founder and Director, Dr Pushpinder Chowdhry MBE says, “Join us at the UK Asian Film Festival, where we celebrate feminism, diversity and empower emerging British Asian talents. Our ‘Creative Minds of Tomorrow’ initiative at BFI Southbank offers exclusive, behind-the-scenes insights and skills workshops led by industry experts, empowering aspiring filmmakers to craft diverse narratives. Through unique cinematic experiences, we aim to shape their identities, boost self-confidence and encourage learning from diverse perspectives. Under the theme, ‘Climate of Change,’ we aspire to instil in young filmmakers a profound sense of self-respect and self-worth, fostering personal growth and contributing to societal progress.”

To find out more and purchase tickets: www.ukaff.com

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