Ten years ago, an ambitious Greek girl from Crete arrived in the U.S. and began working on her concept to create the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Back then, people may have called her crazy (let’s face it, she wasn’t even Indian!), perhaps even suggesting that she abandon her dream of putting together a festival which could serve as a bridge between Bollywood and Hollywood. Now Cretans are known to be stubborn, so maybe this is the reason why Christina Marouda, together with a great team of volunteers, managed to create the largest and most popular Indian Festival in North America.
When people ask Christina how a Greek managed to start an Indian Festival, she responds: “When I was a little girl in Crete, my sister’s friends from India would send us tapes of their favorite films…we would invite all our friends for a half-day celebration of drama, dance, songs…I loved it and it grew in me deeply.”
While working in Hollywood at the American Film Institute, Marouda realized that despite being a part of the most prolific industry in the world, the U.S. offered no platform for Indian films, which happens to stem from one of the largest production industries in the world.
Combining her passion for Hindi and Tamil cinema with her professional experience, Marouda found inspiration for the very first IFFLA festival during a period when “Monsoon Wedding” and “Lagaan” made their mark in the U.S. Her intent was to provide exposure to films, while searching for a solid platform that would go beyond just a cultural event for the diaspora.
There was a lot of cold-calling in the early stages of the festival, as Marouda and her associates reached out to filmmakers to submit for IFFLA’s inaugural program. The small but dedicated team pursued sponsors, secured travel arrangements and hospitality for guests, and pounded the pavement from Hollywood to Little India to raise support and awareness for the festival.
“We look back on our first decade with a sense of exhilaration and pride. From the very beginning, our mission was to establish a film festival that would not only pave the way for a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture in the U.S., but also serve as the portal between the two largest entertainment industries in the world,” says Marouda.
While IFFLA sprung from modest means, the drive and dedication of Marouda and her ever-growing team proved fruitful as the festival developed into a breeding ground for emerging talent. IFFLA’s first ever Film Fund Grant winner Kranti Kanade’s winning script, “Against Itself (a.k.a. Gandhi of the Month),” is now a feature film starring Oscar-nominated actor Harvey Keitel in the lead role.
Marouda points out, “We’ve had filmmakers who came here with a three-minute short film some years ago, their first time out of India, who are now making films with U.S. studios and are being represented by top agencies like Creative Artists Agency.”
That kind of support is invaluable, not only to filmmakers looking to find a worldwide audience, but to an increasing batch of Hollywood “movers and shakers” looking towards the global marketplace to make their mark.
So what does the 10th anniversary have in store? Marouda says, “I look forward to the next decade with zeal and I anticipate what IFFLA’s board and staff will be able to achieve as the dialogue between these two film industries continues to flourish, and the content they create continues to evolve and be refined.”
Below you can watch an interview Marouda gave to Greek Reporter in 2008 where she spoke about how she founded IFFLA.
The 2012 Indian Film Festival and film line up
With what promises to be its most ambitious slate yet, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles has announced an impressive 2012 lineup. 33 features, documentaries, and short films will be screened from filmmakers throughout the world including Canada, Italy, India, Germany, South Africa, UK, and the U.S. Among the offerings are three world premieres, nine U.S. premieres and twelve Los Angeles premieres, making it a banner year for the festival as it celebrates its tenth year. It runs from April 10-15 at ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles, the home of IFFLA since it began.
Opening and closing night red-carpet galas are set to showcase the first features of two directors, Bedabrata Pain and Prashant Bhargava.
Opening night marks the world premiere of Bedabrata Pain’s drama “Chittagong,” starring award-winning actor Manoj Bajpayee (“Pinjar”). The film is set against the backdrop of 1930′s British-occupied Chittagong on the brink of a youth led revolution, and tells the story of 14-year-old Jhunka who comes of age as he is faced with the ultimate questions of sacrifice, love, and the quest for true freedom.
Closing night festivities will begin with the screening of director Prashant Bhargava’s richly woven award-winning drama “Patang.” The film tells the story of a Delhi businessman and his daughter as they journey back to his childhood home in Ahmedabad for a family reunion during India’s largest kite festival. Under the kaleidoscope of colorful kite-filled skies, a Pandora’s box of family drama and past conflict is exposed. “Patang” has become a festival favorite, playing to sold-out audiences worldwide and is making its Los Angeles premiere at IFFLA.
Among the eight feature films screening will be India’s 2011 official submission in the Oscar foreign language category, Salim Ahmed’s poetic drama “Abu, Son of Adam (Adaminte Makan Abu).” U.S. premieres include Rajan Khosa’s critically acclaimed “Gattu” – which won a special mention this year at the 62nd Berlinale for capturing the ironies, the complexities and the vitality of India – as well as Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s inspirational satire “The Temple (Deool).”
Documentaries include the world premiere of Ruchika Muchhala and Faiza Khan’s fascinating look into Indian society with “The Great Indian Marriage Bazaar,” and the U.S. premiere of Raffaele Brunetti’s “Mother India,” which intertwines four distinct stories about India’s booming fertility industry.
In honor of its tenth year, the festival is bringing back three of its past award winners as part of a “10th Anniversary Retrospective.” Throughout 2011, the festival asked the public to vote online for their favorite film from the past decade. The films that received the most votes and selected by the public to be screened in the retrospective are past Jury Award winners for Best Narrative Feature – “Udaan” (2011) and “Black Friday” (2005) – and Audience Choice Award winner for Best Feature “Loins of Punjab Presents”(2008).
Also returning is the crowd pleasing Bollywood by Night sidebar, which includes the highly anticipated “Agent Vinod,” directed by Sriram Raghavan and starring Bollywood superstars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, and Abhinay Deo’s “Delhi Belly,” produced by acclaimed Indian actor/director/producer Aamir Khan.
To reserve festival passes and see the full line up please visit iffla.org