IFFLA 2024: A Jubilant Celebration of Courage, Dreams, and Indomitable Spirit of South Asian Filmmakers

  • Shuchi Talati’s “Girls Will Be Girls” Triumphs with grand jury prize; Tarsem Singh’s “Dear Jassi” shines.

The 22nd Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) culminated in a joyous awards ceremony, honoring the most daring and inspirational storytellers of South Asian cinema. This year’s festival was a radiant tribute to the dreamers and visionaries whose artistry lights up the world.

IFFLA 2024 showcased an extraordinary lineup, including the Los Angeles premiere of “Dear Jassi” and the thriller “Kill,” produced by Oscar-winner Guneet Monga, and Karan Johar. The festival also featured the Sundance winners “Girls Will Be Girls” and “Ben and Suzanne, A Reunion in 4 Parts.” 

Renowned directors, actors, and industry professionals such as Tarsem Singh (“Mirror Mirror”, “The Cell”), Nithilan Saminathan (“Maharaja”), Rajshri Deshpande (“Trial by Fire”) Samrat Chakrabarti (“Four Samosas”), and Parvathy Thiruvothu (“Uyare”) graced the event, embodying the festival’s spirit of unity and artistic excellence.

Shuchi Talati’s “Girls Will Be Girls” triumphed with the Grand Jury Prize for best feature film, which was celebrated for its exquisite portrayal of a young woman’s journey.

The feature film called the film “a nuanced portrayal of the universal story of coming of age where all elements come together elegantly.” It further said the film “normalizes the contradiction of our innermost desires coupled with society’s expectations in a completely accessible package.”

Tarsem Singh’s “Dear Jassi” which received the Feature Jury Honorable Mention, has been praised for its touching depiction of love and societal challenges. The jury concluded that the film “makes a rallying cry, an emphatic shout to reflect upon how shame rules us.”

The Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film was awarded to Stenzin Tankong’s “Last Days of Summer,” acclaimed for its moving narrative set against the stunning landscapes of Ladakh. Yuki Ellias’s “Lovely & Tip Top” earned an Honorable Mention for its heartfelt storytelling. 

The short film “Last Days” won the Grand Jury Prize. Calling the decision to award the film as being “unanimous,” the jury described the film as “an intriguing parable about the greatest existential threat of our time With elegant storytelling, cinematography, and subtle but powerful performances, this film uses wit and mystery to juxtapose our relationship with the natural world and our responsibility towards it.”

The Audience Choice Awards went to Lucy Walker’s “Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa” and Ritvik Dhavale’s “Hema,” both captivating viewers with their powerful and inspiring tales.

Shuchi Dwivedi’s project “Friends and Fascism” won the inaugural Industry Day Pitch Competition, taking home a $10,000 prize. Sejal Pachisia’s “Emapthico” received an Honorable Mention, underscoring the festival’s dedication to nurturing fresh voices and innovative ideas.

IFFLA Executive Director Christina Marouda expressed her delight at the festival’s success. “This year marked an exciting evolution for IFFLA, with new venues and record-breaking attendance,” she said. “We remain a vital platform for South Asian filmmakers to share their incredible stories.”

The closing night film “Maharaja,” directed by Nithilan Saminathan, was met with resounding applause at the festival. With stellar performances by Vijay Sethupathi and Mamta Mohandas and a gripping, gut-wrenching portrayal of pure evil by Anurag Kashyap, the film captivated audiences with its engaging narrative and emotional depth, securing its place as a festival favorite. 

The inaugural IFFLA Industry Day, a highlight of this year’s festival, was aimed at bridging South Asian filmmakers with established Hollywood executives. This inclusive forum facilitated the exchange of inspiring stories, mentorship, and collaborations, leveraging Los Angeles as the nexus of the film and television industry.

 Given the recent accolades for South Asian filmmakers at the Oscars and Cannes, this meticulously curated program was both timely and significant. Participating entities included Warner Bros. Discovery, Disney, Sag Indie, Roadside Attractions, Sundance Institute, Film Independent, Macro, The Salon, ColorCreative, CAPE, and more.

This year’s jury for the Feature Film Competition were Mirsada Abdool Raman, vice president of Global Television Development at Miramax; producer Mohammed Ali (Mo) Naqvi; and oncologist, writer and director Roshan Sethi.

The Short film jury comprised screenwriter and director Terrie Samundra, actress Shriya Pilgaonkar, and Francisco Velasquez, associate director of Project Involve at Film Independent. 

The closing night was not just about giving away the all-important awards and screening the film that closed out the four-day event. Bringing alive the spirit of a “desi night out” the entire IFFLA staff broke out into a mini flash mob, dancing to “Maharaja” star Vijay Sethupathi’s hit song ‘Kamala,” from his 2019 feature film “Sangathamizhan.”

IFFLA 2024 was more than a festival — it was a jubilant celebration of courage, dreams, and the indomitable spirit of filmmakers who illuminate the human experience through their craft. This year’s selection of films challenged audiences with their bold narratives, vivid imagination, and unflinching honesty. 

As the curtains fall, the stories told and emotions shared continue to inspire, underscoring the transformative power of cinema to connect and uplift. 

Here is the complete list of 2024 IFFLA Award winners: 

Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film: ‘Girls Will Be Girls” by Shuchi Talati

See Also

Feature Jury Honorable Mention: “Dear Jassi” by Tarsem Singh 

Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film: “Last Days Of Summer” by Stenzin Tankong

Short Film Honorable Mention: “Lovely and Tip Top” by Yuki Ellias  

Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film: “Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa by Lucy Walker

Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film: “Hema” by Ritvik Dhavale 

Pitch Competition Winner: Shuchi Dwivedi, “Friends and Fascism”

Pitch Competition Honorable Mention: Sejal Pachisia, “Empathico”

Top photo: IFFLA 2024 winners, from left, Kent Bassett, co-producer, “Girls Will Be Girls”; Shuchi Talati, director, “Girls Will Be Girls”; Ritvik Dhavale, writer and director, “Hema”; Rajshri Deshpande, actress, “Hema”; Aishwarya Sonar, producer, “Hema”; and Lucy Walker, director, Mountain Queen. Photo courtesy: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles). 

Video: 2024 closing night mini Flash mob dance by IFFLA staff. (Video by Sunil Sadarangani)

Geetika Budhiraja is an entertainment writer, screenwriter, and actress. A distinguished alumna of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) and the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in Los Angeles, Geetika has carved a niche for herself in the industry.

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