SAN LEANDRO, CALIFORNIA— From Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s crime drama “Beeba Boys” to Davis Guggenheim’s documentary “He Named Me Malala,” this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, running from Sept. 10 to 20, marks the world premieres of several prominent films by and featuring Indian Americans and other South Asians.
“Beeba Boys,” which revolves around a Sikh gang engaged in a turf war for control of the Vancouver drug and arms-trafficking markets, is one of the only South Asian films featured in TIFF’s “Gala Presentations.”
The “Gala Presentations” section features big-name stars and movies, such as this year’s “Demolition,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
Though not made by a South Asian director, Matthew Brown’s “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” starring “Slumdog Millionaire” actor Dev Patel, which depicts the life of early-20th century Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, also makes its world premiere in the “Gala Presentations.”
Meanwhile, three feature films from India — Meghna Gulzar’s “Talvar,” Leena Yadav’s “Parched” and Pan Nalin’s “Angry Indian Goddesses” — have their world premieres in the festival’s “Special Presentations” category, which features films by major directors or with major stars.
“Talvar,” starring Irrfan Khan, is based on the 2008 Noida Double Murder Case in which 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar and her family’s house servant were found dead at the Talwar home.
“Employing the structure of a classic whodunit, director Meghna Gulzar reconstructs the botched police investigation, the subsequent inquiry into the case, and the trial by public perception that took place when Aarushi's grieving parents were taken to court,” according to the TIFF Web site.
“Parched,” starring Radhika Apte and Tannishtha Chatterjee and produced by Ajay Devgan, depicts the inhibited women of Rajasthan who want more out of life than what they’ve been handed, while Nalin’s “Angry Indian Goddesses,” which also stars Chatterjee, revolves around a group of women on the eve of their friend’s Goa wedding.
Also in “Special Presentations,” French director Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan” made its North American premiere at TIFF after winning the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The film follows a former Tamil Tiger soldier as he tries to begin a new life in a Parisian suburb after fleeing from the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war.
Three South Asian filmmakers and subjects have their world premieres in “TIFF Docs,” the section containing the festival’s documentary films, including “He Named Me Malala,” “The Reflektor Tapes Way To Blue” and “A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers.”
U.S. director Davis Guggenheim’s “He Named Me Malala,” follows Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived a shot in the head from the Taliban to become a global advocate for girls’ rights, while Indian American director Kahlil Joseph’s “The Reflektor Tapes Way To Blue” follows the Canadian band Arcade Fire on their “Reflektor” tour.
Jointly produced in the U.S. and Pakistan, South Asian directors Geeta Gandbhir and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s “A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers” follows Bangladeshi policewomen who serve as United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
Coming out of Bangladesh, director Zahidur Rahim Anjan makes his feature film debut with the world premiere of “Meghmallar” in the “Discovery” section, featuring up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world.
“Meghmallar,” an adaptation of a short story by novelist Akhteruzzaman Elias, follows a family torn apart by the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
Festivalgoers were also able to catch three short films by and featuring South Asians.
Indian director Megha Ramaswamy’s 19-minute short “Bunny,” following a little girl mourning the loss of her bunny, makes its North American premiere in “Short Cuts” along with the world premiere of Kasra Farahani’s 10-minute satirical short “Concerning The Bodyguard,” narrated by Indo-British author Salman Rushdie.
“Wavelengths,” which features experimental film and video art, sees the world premiere of Indian filmmakers Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia’s 11-minute short, “An Old Dog’s Diary,” which pieces together a look at avant-garde Indian painter Francis Newton Souza.
Indian American artist Shambhavi Kaul’s “Fallen Objects,” consisting of projected video loops and floor-bound sculptures, is also featured in “Wavelengths.”
“Stripping away the narrative potential of its genre cinema-derived source material, ‘Fallen Objects’ considers cinematic space outside the cinema and imagines humans inside it,” according to the TIFF Web site.
In addition to the films shown, many of the aforementioned filmmakers and actors, including Patel and Khan, are scheduled to attend the festival.