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Cinema Pardesi: The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles Turns a Youthful 20

Cinema Pardesi: The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles Turns a Youthful 20

  • IFFLA is back in-person this year from April 28 to May 1 with exciting additions. Here is an overview of its evolution down the years.

It has been 20 years since the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) has been in existence, showcasing some of the finest independent films from the Indian subcontinent, and bringing Indian culture, its diverse cuisines and traditions closer into the spotlight in Hollywood.

Circa 2002 — the year when Christina Marouda, founder and executive director of the IFFLA, was studying Marketing and Film Distribution at UCLA extension. An MBA graduate from Cal State Long Beach, Christina was an avid watcher of Indian cinema growing up in Greece, especially films of icons, director Satyajit Ray and actress Nargis. While studying at UCLA, she saw little to no representation of films from India and by Indian filmmakers from the subcontinent, and the diaspora. Thus began her journey to seek out compelling films from India, and in 2003 she launched the festival officially at the Arclight Cinemas.

Right from its inception, IFFLA’s programming has been ground-breaking and Introduced brilliant works of some very talented Indian filmmakers, in terms of subject matter and cinematic style, and has maintained its steadfast focus as a prime venue in the U.S.

Having a strong team of advisors and curators of Indian origin — from Mumbai’s veteran film festival curator, Uma DaCunha to its current co-director of programming, Ritesh Mehta — solidified IFFLA’s film programming reputation over the last twenty years.

IFFLA has also established some landmark, game-changing initiatives such as the Filmmaker-Industry One-on-One Program, Rhythm Village, The Industry Leadership Awards, Masterclass Workshop and Filmmaker Spotlight. These benchmark undertakings opened many doors for independent Indian filmmakers to Hollywood, who otherwise would not have had a chance to display their creativity, voice and talent on an international platform. 

The films showcased at the festival over years were rare gems that may not have been accessible easily, due to factors such as mainstream Bollywood fare dominating the marketplace, and the limited financial bandwidth of the filmmakers to market and promote themselves effectively. Along with Ritesh Mehta, co-director of programming, Thouly Dosios have both made sure to maintain IFFLA’s programming caliber by carefully curating captivating films for the 2022 edition.

Here are highlights of some of the important achievements by IFFLA over the last 20 years:

See Also

Freida Pinto, Anurag Kashyap and Christina Marouda at the 2013 IFFLA. Top photo, a Q&A session with Hansal Mehta at the 2016 IFFLA.
All images: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
2006 Los Angleles premiere of “Water” with Deepa Mehta and Uma DaCunha.
2013 Industry Leadership Award honorees Guneet Monga and Bela Bajaria.
2017 Spotlight on Nisha Ganatra.
2019 “Breaking in Brown” panel.
2018 Master Class with Kunal Nayyar.
2007 filmmaker-industry one-on-one program.

This year, IFFLA is announcing a year-round filmmaker mentorship initiative on the closing night of the festival. The goal is to support mid-career filmmakers who need guidance and mentorship to take them to the next level. The importance of this initiative cannot be more timely. On the heels of the recent South Asian flavor gaining permanence in Hollywood (hello South Asian Hollywood!) there is an urgent need for more South Asians to be given representation on mainstream platforms to make content and be promoted by key decision-makers of South Asian origin. 

The 2022 IFFLA will take place at the Regal Cinemas, L.A. Live, downtown Los Angeles, Harmony Gold (7655 Sunset Blvd.), from April 28th-May 1st. For more information on the full program and tickets go to

Sunil Sadarangani is a Mumbai-born, Los Angeles-based multiple award-winning producer and writer, having been a part of international digital film projects for over 15 years. He has produced award-winning short films “In Transit” (Shorts TV and Oscar nomination qualifier), “Blind,” “Nova,” and “With You.” He is the co-founder and Director of Programming of the Ojai Short Film Festival, now in its third season. He is a charter member of the Programmers of Color Collective (POC2) and was on the jury of the 2019 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival and a Senior Assistant Programmer at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. He currently volunteers on the assistant programming committee at Outfest, Los Angeles. Sunil is an officially accredited writer covering film and digital media at leading film festivals and industry award events. The California State Senate has recognized him for his ongoing commitment to creativity and innovation in the Los Angeles community. Sadarangani is the co-founder of Omagination Pictures, a production company representing and producing South Asian creators and stories. He has been instrumental in securing IP content as well as forging associations with industry executives and creators for the company.

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