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Indian-Tibetan couple is promoting indie cinema

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Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam are exposing local audiences in Dharamshala to the world cinema and encouraging budding filmmakers from the region.


As residents of Dharamshala for many years, the Indian-Tibetan filmmaking couple, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, long believed that the town’s exciting profile would make it a perfect location for an international film festival.

 The fact that Dharamshala does not have a single theatre was hardly ever a hindrance in the ever increasing love for cinema, the art and aesthetics of filmmaking.

Such an event would not only expose the local audiences to contemporary cinema and encourage budding filmmakers in the region, but would also draw audiences from all over India to enjoy independent cinema away from the chaos of cities. With this in mind, they started a non-profit organisation, White Crane Arts & Media Trust, to promote contemporary art, cinema and independent media practices in the Himalayan region. Dharamshala International Film Festival(DIFF), was its first venture.

DIFF was born out of the belief that cinema and art have the potential to be a force for good, the ability to transform perceptions and cultivate understanding and the power to reach deep into the soul of human experience and offer insights in a language understood by all.

In the highly competitive industry of filmmaking where thousands of movies are released in a year and where movies under a big banner easily overshadows and triumphs over a humble independent film, DIFF seeks to thus establish itself as a patron of independent cinema, promoting at the same time the cultural nuances of Himachal Pradesh.

The previous editions of DIFF proved to be a cornerstone for the festival in many ways. To begin with, it saw in its attendance some well known and respected faces of the industry including film critic Namrata Joshi and the veteran actor-director, Rajat Kapoor.


DIFF has actively partnered with various organisations in India and abroad to sponsor screenings of specific international films and to help bring their filmmakers to Dharamshala including the Polish Institute, the Swiss Embassy of India, Goethe Institute, Instituto Cervantes, British Council and the Japan Foundation.

DIFF has also forged partnerships with a range of local groups and entrepreneurs and as part of the festival hosts a Food, Arts and Crafts Fair. It gives special preference to NGOs working with local arts, culture and handicrafts. These include Jagori, Nishtha, My Earth Store, Rogpa, Greenshop, Moonpeak, and Woeser Bakery to name a few.

A big milestone achieved last year by DIFF in the attainment of its vision was the foundation of DIFF Fellows Program, which aims to encourage and develop filmmaking talent in the Himalayan regions of India.

Five participants were selected from a total of 25 applications by an eminent jury, which included two well-known filmmakers, Hansal Mehta and Anupama Srinivasan, and Bina Paul, the former Artistic Director of the Kerala International Film Festival.

In this country where diversity and multicultural forces reign supreme, DIFF with its unique efforts wishes not only to sustain facets of Himachal Pradesh’s culture but also to open its doors to many such aspirations film lovers to showcase their talent, making it a truly pluralistic and innovative event.

Looking forward for more film festival in the region so audience of the region can participate in all the aethetic of film making.

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