After two weeks of diverse programming across five venues across the city, the Manchester Indian Film Festival (MIFF) 2022 came to a close on Wednesday July 6 at the Everyman Cinema on Quay Street.
MIFF has returned to Manchester for its second year, bringing film, poetry and discussion of South Asian identity to HOME cinema, Ducie Street Warehouse and more.
The festival is an offshoot of the London Indian Film Festival, created by Cary Rajinder Sawhney in 2010.
Sawhney was working for the BFI London Film Festival when the idea came to him.
He said: “Like most international festivals, they [the BFI] do only a small selection of Indian cinema.
“I just thought ‘Where are all these movies going?’ They are never shown elsewhere.
Sawnhey explained that although the festival is labeled as “Indian”, the films and performances come from and represent a range of South Asian and Diasporic experiences.
The objective for Manchester is to diversify the audiences of the screenings organized by the MIFF.
“40% of the public in London is non-Asian,” he said. “So we want to do the same in Manchester.
“It’s not just Indian movies for Indians – it’s Asian movies for everyone.”
The program of events ranged from British Asian Comedy A little English, to the short film collections, to the closing gala which presented the edifying documentary Superfan: Nav Bhatia’s Storywhich tells how a man moved to Canada to escape anti-Sikh violence and became the face of the Toronto Raptors in the process.
The festival’s LGBTQ+ short film event at the HOME cinema has proven to be one of the most popular events on the schedule.
Hosted by author, drag performer, and activist Yvy DeLuca, “Too Desi Too Queer” explored the lives, experiences, and well-being of South Asian LGBTQ+ communities through recent short films such as Queer Parivaar and My mother’s girlfriend.
“It’s always nice to be involved in stuff like that,” DeLuca said, “especially being South Asian and trans.
“Too Desi Too Queer is important for people to understand not only being a desi person, and the stigma that comes with being a queer person, in regards to tradition, family, culture, heritage , all those things, that kind of suffocate us from being authentic ourselves.
“But also within the community, I think it’s really important that we show the power of being queer – that we can wear that term queer with pride and actually go, that’s a really powerful way of us unite all.”
Like Sawhney, DeLuca felt Too Desi Too Queer was equally important to LGBTQ+ people outside of the South Asian community.
She said, “It was nice to see other people from different cultures watching these shorts, seeing what gay South Asian lives are like around the world.”
MIFF has also helped to expose lifelong Manchester residents to places they have never explored.
MIFF project manager Danielle Porter said: “We brought in a very high percentage of people who had never been to these places before.”
Sawhney commented that places like HOME are considered very white spaces and said, “Why shouldn’t we occupy these large spaces as well?”
Porter noted that overall the festival was a success and received great feedback.
The festival also helped connect the South Asian community across the city with art and poetry workshops.
Porter said: “We worked with a poet from the city of Manchester called Anjum Malik, and she ran poetry workshops for the Deeplish Community Centre.
“For the events where we didn’t have a Q&A, we recited poetry live by the South Asian women who wrote it, and it got an amazing response.”
The Manchester Indian Film Festival hopes to return in 2023 with another range of varied events, potentially including a masterclass for local South Asian filmmakers to learn and network with industry professionals.