The Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) is an international film festival showcasing the best of recent Indian and world cinema, including fiction, documentaries and shorts. DIFF debuted on 1 to 4 November 2012 in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, India. The second edition was held from 24 to 27 October 2013. The third edition took place from 30 October to 2 November 2014. The fourth edition was held from 5 to 8 November 2015. This year, the festival will take place from 3 to 6 November 2016.
The festival was conceptualized by filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam of White Crane Films as a means of bringing quality contemporary, independent cinema to the culturally diverse location of Dharamshala. DIFF will be presented through their trust White Crane Arts & Media, which promotes contemporary art, cinema and independent media practices in the Himalayan region.
As long-term residents of Dharamshala, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam have long believed that the culturally eclectic town would make an ideal location for an international film festival. Nestled in the hills of the Dhauladhar Himalayan mountain range, it is a small but cosmopolitan town populated by local Gaddis, Rajputs, Tibetan refugees and foreign expatriates from around the world. Home to the Dalai Lama and the capital of the Tibetan diaspora, Dhamashala is a unique converging point of various cultures, religions, ethnicities and languages. Sarin and Sonam aspire to establish DIFF "as a world-class film festival where filmmakers and film lovers can interact in an intimate, creative and informal way" and to "promote and encourage local filmmaking talent."
Held in a town with no cinema, the festival’s primary audience is the local Indian and Tibetan population. Addressing the lack of access to high-quality, non-commercial cinema, DIFF offers the town’s residents a window into the world of contemporary film, enriching their knowledge and understanding of other places and cultures. Apart from sharing their love for cinema, Ritu and Tenzing aim to fill the cultural gap small towns face in terms of cinema and arts.
The first edition of DIFF screened 26 feature films, shorts and documentaries from around the world, drawing over 5000 film-lovers from across India. In addition to the film screenings, the festival included panel discussions and master classes with filmmakers from India and abroad, such as Jennifer Fox, Karim El Hakim, Guy Davidi and Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni.
The 2012 edition was preceded by an international artists’ workshop jointly organized by White Crane Arts & Media and the Delhi-based Khoj International Artists’ Association held in Dharamshala from 20 October to 1 November. It also featured a live music performance by Tibetan traditional folk musicians
The Second Edition of the festival was held from the 24th to 27 October 2013. Approximately 30 fiction, documentary, short and experimental films were showcased.
An unusual and exciting feature of DIFF 2013 was a series of films made by leading contemporary international artists that are rarely seen outside the gallery space, presented by the Vienna-based Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation.
A sidebar showcased the best of recent short films from India, curated by noted Indian filmmaker Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni. A number of acclaimed Indian and international filmmakers and industry professionals invited to attend DIFF interacted with the audience through Q&A sessions, panel discussions and filmmaking masterclasses.
The third edition of DIFF showcased 27 full-length feature films and documentaries, and a selection of short animation films, selected from the best of contemporary independent cinema, from 30 October to 2 November 2014.
The 2014 edition of the festival counted with 12 filmmakers from India and abroad, film critics, and industry and media personnel, to attend the festival and participate in Q&A sessions. There were also Masterclasses and Workshops, including a Special Animation Workshop conducted by India’s leading animation filmmaker, Gitanjali Rao.
This edition marked the start of the DIFF Film Fellows Programme, in which a selected number of young filmmakers from the Indian Himalayan regions were selected to come to the festival, attend film screenings, masterclasses and workshops, and engage in one-on-one mentoring sessions with established filmmakers. Additionally, there were special Outreach Programmes to ensure participation and involvement of local schools and colleges in the festival, as well as a Food, Arts and Crafts Fair for the duration of the festival at DIFF's main venue, the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA).
As with the previous edition of the festival, there will be a sidebar dedicated to the best of new Indian short films curated by filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni, and an additional selection of animation films from around the world curated by animation filmmaker Gitanjali Rao.
Indian short films include:Border Patrol by Peter Baumann
Call it Slut by Nishtha Jain
Ika by Raam Reddy
Little Hands by Rohin Raveendran Nair
Tamaash by Satyanshu Singh & Devanshu
Three of Us by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni.
Animation films include:Dreams and Desires - Family Ties by Joanna Quinn
El Canto by Ines Sedan
L'Homme Qui Dort by Ines Sedan
La Femme Squelette by Sarah Van Den Boom
La Gallina Ciega by Isabel Herguera
Mani's Dying by Shilpa Ranade
Naayo by Saheb Ram Tudu
Naja Goes to School by Shilpa Ranade
Printed Rainbow by Gitanjali Rao
Tanko Bole Chhe by Nina Sabnani
TrueLoveStory by Gitanjali Rao
Goopi Gawaiya, Bagha Bajaiya by Shilpa Ranade (an excerpt of this feature animation film)