For many years, filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, along with like-minded friends in Dharamshala, talked about organizing an international film festival in the beautiful mountain town that they called home. Here was a quirky and unusual place, made up of a range of interesting people and cultures, blessed by the munificent presence of the Dalai Lama and presided over by the magnificent backdrop of the Dhauladhar range. All it lacked, it seemed, was a major cultural event that could bring together its diverse residents in a common cause and appeal to discerning visitors. These discussions continued over endless cups of tea (and stronger libations as well) but remained unfulfilled.
Until last year, when by a happy coincidence of many factors, it all finally came together and the first edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) was launched. The primary aim of DIFF was always to celebrate the love of cinema and to offer Dharamshala’s varied denizens exposure to good quality independent films from around the world. But equally important was the goal of making the festival a non-partisan, cultural event where all of the area’s residents – Indians, Tibetan refugees, and expatriates alike – could participate in and be stakeholders.
A film festival, like a movie production, is the sum total of many people’s hard work, support and cooperation. This year’s team of staff, interns and volunteers led by DIFF’s super-efficient Festival Producer, Victoria Conner, has been hard at work for weeks, knitting together the multiple strands that make up the mosaic of a successful festival.
The second edition of DIFF was made possible by the generous support and collaboration of many organisations and individuals: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; The Prince Claus Fund, the Netherlands; the Himachal Pradesh Government’s Tourism Department; Isdell Foundation, New York; and Sanjiv Sharma.
DIFF is presented by White Crane Arts & Media Trust, a non-profit organisation to promote contemporary art, cinema and independent media practices in the Himalayan region.