This week, the Dharamshala International Film Festival‘s year-round programme is hosting a virtual viewing room for international films from this year’s Oscar season. These are all films considered for, shortlisted for, or nominated for an Oscar. There will also also be two Q&A sessions: journalist Rana Ayyub in conversation with American director Bryan Fogel, and film critic Aseem Chhabra in conversation with Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou.
The six films in the DIFF Virtual Viewing Room are curated by Anu Rangachar. They will be available from April 2 to 8 and can be rented individually (at Rs 149 each) or with an ‘All Films Pass’ (for Rs 599) at online.diff.co.in. These are the films that will be screened:
Director: Christos Nikou
This surreal comedy-drama is an exploration of memory, identity and loss through the eyes of the middle-aged Aris. The victim of a global pandemic that causes sudden amnesia, he is instructed to document a set of daily tasks to rebuild his identity. The narrative unravels the complexities of how memory functions, and the forces that shape us into who we are. The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival 2020, and screened at Toronto International Film Festival and was Greece’s official Oscar entry for the Best International Feature category.
Director: Valentyn Vasyanovych
Set in Eastern Ukraine in 2025, this military drama follows Sergiy, a former soldier suffering from PTSD, struggling to navigate a life in pieces and a land in ruins. Better days appear on the horizon when he meets Katya and joins a volunteer mission exhuming war corpses. But is it meant to last? Winner of the Best Film in the Horizons section at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival, the film screened at Toronto International Film Festival, the International Film Festival of Rotterdam, and is Ukraine’s official Oscar entry for the Best International Feature Film category.
Director: Bryan Fogel
A docu-thriller on the international cover-up behind the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The Dissident, directed by Oscar winner Bryan Fogel, captures the dangers of speaking truth to power. The narrative spans the chilling effects of cybersurveillance, corruption, and eroding moral authority. But, there’s hope too, and the documentary intends to encourage an informed citizenry that can push their leaders to prioritise human rights. The film had its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was shortlisted for the Best Feature Documentary for the 2021 Oscars.
Night of the Kings
Director: Philippe Lacôte
The film is inspired by a real-life tradition at the secluded MACA prison in the Ivory Coast, where one inmate is chosen to tell a story to the others. Operating as a modern-day Scheherazade, he starts narrating a rich tale of the Zama King, going from realism to magic, borrowing from political fact and legend, in a story that lasts through the night. The film was conceptualised from the director’s experiences of visiting the notorious prison as a child. It premiered at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival, won the Amplify Voices Award at 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, featured in the Spotlight section of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, screened at the 2020 New York Film Festival, won the Youth Jury Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam and was Ivory Coast’s official Oscar entry for the Best International Feature Film category.
Quo Vadis, Aida?
Director: Jasmila Žbanic
Aida works as a translator for the UN in the small town of Srebrenica. Her life turns upside down when the Serbian army takes over, leaving her and her family scrambling for shelter. As part of her job, she is privy to classified information that will determine the course of her country’s fate. Will she react to the warning signs in time? Nominated in the Best International Feature Film category of the 2021 Oscars, the film premiered at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival, screened at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, and won the Audience award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam.
Two of Us
Director: Filippo Meneghetti
Nina and Madeline are two retirees who have been secretly in love for decades. Posing as neighbours to the outside world, they traipse in and out with ease. Trouble brews in paradise when Madeleine’s daughter stumbles upon the truth about their relationship. The film is a fascinating exploration of desire and how the gaze of others can mediate and censor it. The film premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, screened at the BFI London Film Festival and the International Film Festival of Rotterdam and was France’s official Oscar entry for the Best International Feature Film category.