‘River to River’: The World of Indian Film

A long weekend is arriving to enjoy activities in Florence and Tuscany, all of which could be tagged “international.”  With a theme focusing on “The Chiaroscuro of Bollywood,” the River to River Indian Film Festival opens on December 7 and will run through December 12 at Cinema La Compagnia (via Cavour 50/r).


One of the most outstanding days is the one dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi on Saturday, Dec. 9.  The short “Quel Giorno – Morte di Gandhi” (Gandhi’s Death) with footage from RAI TV archives, will show at 11 am.  This will be followed by the talk Beyond the Legend: What is Left of the Mahatma Today?  Speakers include Rocco Altieri, pacifist, expert in non-violence philosophy, professor at Pisa University and founder of Mahatma Gandhi International Nonviolence Centre; and Fabrizia Baldissera, Associate Professor of Sanskrit Language and Literature, Department of Comparative Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University of Florence.

In the afternoon, “Gandhi” (1982, in English with Italian subtitles) by Richard Attenborough, is scheduled at 3:30 pm.  Starring Ben Kingsley and winner of eight Academy Awards, the biopic showcases highlights in Gandhi’s life as a young lawyer to his death, on January 30, 1948, shortly after the Indian independence on August 15, 1947.

Earlier, the festival kicks off with “Newton” featuring English & Italian subtitles (Thursday, Dec. 7 at La Compagnia, 8:30 pm), India’s entry for the upcoming Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category.  The lead character, Newton, in charge of a voting station in the midst of the jungle, wants to make sure everything will run smoothly.  With complications and the hostility of his colleagues, it is an experience he will not easily forget.  Afterwards, there is a Q & A with producer Manish Mundra.

A program highlight of Friday, Dec. 8 is “East is East” (UK, 1999, Italian subtitles) at 11 am.  This highly successful comedy directed by Damien O’Donnell, stars Om Puri – who died in January 2017.  The plot revolves around the misadventures of a Pakistani man, his British wife and their seven children in the ’70s.

On Sunday, December 10, enjoy “Stir” at 11 am (2016, Italian subtitles). The protagonist, Laila decides to cook a traditional Indian dish to honor her mother and invites all the family for dinner. She cannot remember the exact recipe but she will find something unexpected at home.  The film will provide a platform for guest Barù, TV host, columnist and culinary writer, to reveal the flavor and secrets of Indian spices and food, and show how to use them as inspiration in cooking.  (rachel hinojosa)