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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



8th edition of Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) from 7 November, announces full line-up

8th edition of Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) from 7 November, announces full line-up

Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) will be held from 7 to 10 November, 2019 in the beautiful mountain town of McLeodGanj, Dharamshala, home of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and the meeting point of a rich and cosmopolitan mix of people and cultures. As is the past, the eighth edition will continue to showcase an eclectic mix of the best of independent features, documentaries, shorts and animation films from India and around the world.

Besides the curated selections, this year, for the first time, DIFF opened up to submissions via FilmFreeway, and there were numerous excellent entries! This contributed to the further diversity of our line-up this year.

Opening and Closing Films

Eeb Allay Ooo! by Prateek Vats will open the Festival (DIFF) 2019 and Gitanjali Rao’s feature animation, Bombay Rose, will close the festival. Directors Prateek Vats and Gitanjali Rao will be present.

Celebrities and Filmmakers attending

Adil Hussain will be attending the festival and conducting an Acting Workshop.

Indian feature film directors Ekta Mittal, Gurvinder Singh, Kislay, Lijo Jose Pellissery, Priya Sen, R.V. Ramani, and Vinod Kamble will be present.

International filmmakers attending the festival include:

Jesse Alk (USA), Kazuhiro Soda (Japan), Samuel Weniger (Switzerland).

Complete Line Up

The DIFF 2019 lineup includes Indian fiction and documentary features: About Love (dir. Archana Phadke), Aise Hee (dir. Kislay), Birha (dir. Ekta Mittal), Bombay Rose (dir. Gitanjali Rao), Eeb Allay Ooo! (dir. Prateek Vats), Jallikattu (dir. Lijo Jose Pellissery), Khanaur (Bitter Chestnut), (dir. Gurvinder Singh), Oh, That’s Bhanu (dir. R.V. Ramani) and Yeh Freedom Life (dir. Priya Sen).

The international fiction and documentary features include: Another Day Of Life (dir. Raúl de la Fuente, Damian Nenow, Poland/Spain), For Sama (dir. Edward Watts, Waad Al-Khateab, UK), God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya (dir. Teona Strugar Mitevska, Macedonia/ France/ Belgium), Golden Age (dir. Beat Oswald, Samuel Weniger, Switzerland), Heimat is a Space in Time (dir. Thomas Heise, Germany), Inland Sea (dir. Kazuhiro Soda, Japan), Last Night I Saw You Smiling (dir. Kavich Neang, Cambodia), Mafak (dir. Bassam Jarbawi, Palestine/ USA/ Qatar), Pariah Dog (dir. Jesse Alk, USA), Song Without a Name (dir. Melina León, Peru/Spain/USA), Tehran: City of Love (dir. Ali Jaberansari, Iran/UK/Netherlands), The Best Thing You Can Do With Your Life (dir. Zita Erffa, Germany), The Dalai Lama – Scientist (dir. Dawn Gifford Engle, USA), Varda by Agnés (dir. Agnés Varda, France) and Vitalina Varela (dir. Pedro Costa, Portugal).

Shorts at DIFF

DIFF has always recognised the importance of short films as a category in its own right. Our programme this year includes a rich selection of both fiction and documentary shorts. Short Films include: A Million Years (dir. Danech San, Cambodia), Bebaak (dir. Shazia Iqbal), Brother, Move On (dir. Antshi von Moos, Switzerland), The Booth (dir. Rohin Raveendran), The Little Goddess (dir. Gauri Adelkar), The Horns Of Kolkata (dir. Andrew Scott, New Zealand) Jamnapaar (dir. Abhinava Bhattacharyya), Kamali (dir. Sasha Rainbow, United Kingdom), Kandurwan – Baking History (dir. Mehvish Rather), Knock Knock Knock (dir. Sudhanshu Saria), Light a Candle (dir. Tenzin Kalden), Look at The Sky (dir. Ashok Veilou), Nemesis (dir. Behzad Jafarimazhab Haghighi, Iran), Nooreh (dir. Ashish Pandey), Pema (dir. Sonam Tseten), Sekool (dir. Stenzin Tankong), Student Bodies (dir. Ho Rui An, Singapore), Teesri Khwaish (dir. Purandhya Sharma), The Traffic Separating Device (dir. Johan Palmgren, Sweden), The Timekeeper (dir. Sohil Vaidya) and U for Usha (dir. Rohan Parashuram Kanawade).

In a separate category, DIFF is presenting a package of short films – Chintu (dir. Anubhav Anand), Everything is Fine (dir. Mansi Jain), Gadhedo (dir. Jai Sharma), Laddoo (dir. Sameer Sadhwani, Kishore Sadhwani), Maa Tuki (dir. Suchana Saha) and Rogan Josh (dir. Sanjeev Vig).

DIFF Children’s Film Programme

The popular DIFF Children’s Film Programme will continue with a line-up that includes feature film Kastoori (dir. Vinod Kamble, India) and three shorts, The Award (dir. Lidija Mojsovska, Macedonia), School Trip (dir. Salvatore Allocca, Italy), and Chicken at Swami’s Kitchen (dir. Sachin Balachandiran, India)

Film-making Masterclasses

DIFF’s workshops and masterclasses offer a space to delve into the realm of filmmaking. This year, internationally acclaimed actor Adil Hussain conducts an acting workshop. Swiss filmmaker Samuel Weniger, co-director and cinematographer of Golden Age, explores the creative possibilities of images in documentaries and essay films on the basis of concrete examples from his film. Kazuhiro Soda, director of Inland Sea - Observational Film #7, will enlighten audiences on his unique approach to observational documentary film-making.

Spotlight on Himachal Pradesh

Gurvinder Singh’s latest feature fiction Khanaur (Bitter Chestnut) offers this year’s Spotlight on the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Talking about this year’s line-up at DIFF, Festival Director Ritu Sarin said, “Every year, we try and stay true to the same principles that we set out for DIFF when we started the festival eight years ago: to select films that combine a deeply personal vision with themes that resonate with our times. This year is no different, and hopefully our line-up, which has been carefully and painstakingly curated, will showcase some of the incredible diversity of film-making talent on offer in the world today.” She adds: “DIFF is also a place where film-makers and film lovers can interact in an informal yet engaged way, and with our move back to the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts this year, where all of DIFF’s screenings and events will be contained within close distance of each other, we hope to create an even more intimate space for such exchanges.”

With an exciting line-up of films and events, DIFF 2019 promises to provide another unique, captivating cinematic experience against the backdrop of the dramatic Dhauladhar range.

Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, who are long-term residents of Dharamshala, initiated the festival in 2012, with the aim of bringing high-quality independent cinema to the mountains, encouraging local film-making talent, and creating a meaningful platform to engage the area’s diverse communities. DIFF is presented by White Crane Arts & Media, a trust founded by Sarin and Sonam, to promote contemporary cinema, art and independent media practices in the Himalayan regions of India.

Last year, the films and side programmes at DIFF attracted a viewership of around 7000, of which at least 60% were from out of town from places as far away as Kerala, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Some of India’s best-known film critics and journalists from leading media houses were on hand to cover the event.

This year, the festival bids farewell to the Tibetan Children’s Village, which hosted DIFF for the past three years. The festival moves back to the location which hosted the first editions of DIFF, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. This location is within walking distance from the centre of McLeodGanj and hosts all three of the screening venues next to each other. 

Contact: Deepthi Pendurty,, +91 7807083713

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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