‘River to River’ Indian Film Festival Goes Virtual


Gandhi and his granddaughter Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, who is a guest at the festival

The 20th annual “River to River” Florence Indian Film Festival will take place from December 3 to 8 via Più Compagnia on Mymovies.it, the virtual cinema room of Cinema La Compagnia of Florence. This year’s special edition will be online for the first time, and will welcome activists, actors, and directors who will participate in talks that give insight into the various films screened. With a ticket costing €9.90, the entire program will be accessible on Mymovies.it. All live content will be streamed for free with Italian and English subtitles on the Festival’s Facebook page and YouTube channel

Curated by Selvaggia Velo, “River to River” is the only festival in Italy that showcases Indian cinema and acts as a cultural bridge between the two countries, the name itself alluding to the River Arno and the River Ganges. Founded in 2001, the festival is made possible by the Embassy of India, the Municipality, and Tuscan Regional Government. Guests from around the world will be present virtually in the weeklong program, including actors Amitabh Bachchan and Kabir Bedi in addition to director Deepa Mehta. The guest of honor for 2020 is writer and activist Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, Gandhi’s granddaughter and president of the National Gandhi Museum. The event will also pay tribute to actor Irrfan Khan, a guest of past editions who recently passed away. There will be a selection of his films available to view and appreciate including Lunchbox by Ritesh Batra on Dec. 6 at 4 pm and Karwann by Akarsh Khurana on Dec. 7 at 8:30 pm.

The inauguration of “River to River” will take place on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 8:30 pm with the screening of award-winning director and actor Rajat Kapoor’s Kadahk, a black comedy film set during the night of the festival of light, Diwali. Audience members can join Kapoor in conversation during “Chai Time” on December 4 at 7 pm. Also on the opening day, at 10:30 pm, the animated short film “Photograph” by Indian illustrator Ashutosh Pathak will also be streamed. Pathak’s work portrays India in the time of Covid-19 and is a festival event not to be missed. 

In the following days, audience members can view a wide variety of Indian films ranging in genre and style. On Friday, Dec. 4 at 4 pm, Marco Hülser and Daniel Popat’s documentary Berlin to Bombay will be streamed; the story follows an unsuccessful German actor who travels to Bombay to become a Bollywood star. Friday will also include the screening of Sir – Cenerentola a Mumbai by Rohena Gera, a modern fable that addresses stereotypes of different social classes, at 10 pm.

Saturday, Dec. 5, and Monday, Dec. 7 will stream films with strong female roles. At 11 am on Saturday, Malati Rao’s documentary The Geshema is Born will be available for viewing. Rao’s film tells the true story of Namdol Phuntsok, the first woman to reach Geshema, the highest level of training for a monk in Tibetan Buddhism. On Monday at 5 pm, Sajeed Naduthody’s documentary Bamboo Ballads will also be screened; the film follows a young Indian girl who travels with her band to different villages, spreading music and words to fight against inequality. 

Sunday, Dec. 6 will follow a different theme, this time focusing on adventure films. Matteo Aghemo’s movie Indian Himalaya will be streamed at 11 am, followed by Sean Whitaker’s documentary Buddha of the Chadar at 11:15. The first follows a journey across the remote mountainous zone, while the former takes place in an isolated monastery where there is an ancient bronze statue of Buddha.  This will be followed by remarks and an in depth look at the Himalaya mountains by writer Pierpaolo di Nardo and Marco Restelli, a journalist specialized in India (12 noon).  In addition to these showings, the festival has also organized an Indian cuisine cooking lesson on Monday, Dec. 7 which will be taught online from 7 to 10 pm by a chef associated with Il Cescot (Piazza Per Vettori 8/10). For more information, call 055 2705205. 

The final day of the festival, Dec. 8, at 12 noon will see a virtual discussion titled “Khadi as a symbol of elegance and Indian independence,” led by Gandhi Bhattacharjee starting at 12 noon.  She will explain the significance of Khadi, a hand-woven fabric that has become a symbol of non-violence and India’s emancipation from England and was promoted by her grandfather, the Mahatma.  Earlier on the same day, at 10:30 am, there will be a screening of Gaia Ceriana’s documentary The Wheel of Khadi – the Warp and Weft of India which tells the history of India through its fabrics and craftsmen. 

“River to River” also hopes to host a photography show and virtual reality experience dedicated to Italian and Indian cinematography at Cinema Compagnia (Via Cavour 50/r) in partnership with Murate Art District (MAD), but this will receive the go-ahead only by the provisions of next DCPM government decree expected to be released by December 3. For more information on this year’s Florence Indian film festival, check out the website.  (elizabeth berry)