The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), set to return September 8-18, features a tantalizing lineup of international and Canadian films lined up for its 47th edition. TIFF, which always champions diverse and inclusive programming, this year included a very thought-provoking selection of feature films from the South Asian region and diaspora. The festival will honor and celebrate the centenary of filmmaker maestro Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) with a diverse retrospective of 10 films spanning the Indian subcontinent and 64 years, curated by Mumbai-based programmer Meenakshi Shedde. The retrospective, titled “Satyajit Ray: His Contemporaries and His Legacy,” is ambitious, honoring the legendary filmmaker, alongside the films of his contemporaries and the filmmakers he influenced.
Ray’s (greatest) works open with the filmmaker’s personal favorite “Charulata” (The Lonely Wife, 1964); “Devi” (The Goddess 1960); “Nayak” (The Hero, 1966); and “Shatranj Ke Khilari” (The Chess Players, 1977). The series also features films by four of Ray’s contemporaries: Ritwik Ghatak’s Score masterpiece ‘Subarnarekha’ (The Golden Thread, 1965); “Mr. and Mrs. Iyer” (2002); “Jago Hua Savera” (Day Shall Dawn, 1959), directed by AJ Kardar; and the astonishing avant-garde documentary “Siddheshwari” by Mani Kaul (1989).
Ray has made 37 works, including fiction, documentaries and short films, mostly in Bengali. A polymath and leader of India’s parallel film movement in the 1950s, he questioned the nation’s post-independence legacy, including poverty, patriarchy and corruption – but his films remained deeply humanistic and generally hopeful. Ray’s films have screened at Cannes, Berlin, Venice and TIFF, and international director’s awards include an honorary Oscar in 1992. A year late, due to the pandemic, Ray’s retrospective is going to be a treat cinematic for audiences, especially those who haven’t encountered Ray’s mastery.
A fourth return to TIFF, Indian director Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth,” “Bandit Queen”) will once again mesmerize us with his genius in romantic comedy “What’s Love Got To Do With It” (gala presentation), se is set in London and stars Lily James, Shazad Latif, Shabana Azmi and Emma Thompson. Zoe (James) is a filmmaker and Kazim (Latif) a doctor. They grew up next to each other, even though their worlds couldn’t be further apart. While Zoe was raised by her English divorced mother, Cath (Thompson), to be independent and curious, Kaz’s parents, born in Pakistan, were happy to participate in secular British society while ensuring that their children conduct themselves in accordance with the Muslim faith of the family. Having already witnessed his parents’ anguish when his sister married a white Briton, Kaz chose to follow his parents’ lead and seek an arranged marriage. Kaz’s decision perplexes Zoe – and provides her with a brilliant premise for her next documentary. Having grown up watching Kapur’s “Masoom” on repeat on VHS and following his spectacular career ever since, I always look forward to seeing his magic unfold on screen.
Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the Palme Queer at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, “Joyland” (North American premiere) directed by Pakistani filmmaker Salim Sadiq dazzled audiences with his moving feature debut about Haider Rana (Ali Junejo), who is married to a woman and, amid pressure and teasing from his father, finds work as a backup dancer for trans performer Biba (Alina Khan), opening his eyes to another way of loving – and another way of life. This movie is sure to be a TIFF favorite and likely to win awards at the festival.
Nandita Das (“Manto”), also returns to TIFF to helm “Zwigato” (North American premiere) which scrutinizes the socio-political climate of the gig economy with this story about the trials and tribulations of a driver- food app delivery man (played by Indian comedian Kapil Sharma). After losing his job as a factory manager during the pandemic, Manas (Sharma) becomes a driver for a food delivery app called Zwigato. To make ends meet, his wife Pratima (Shahana Goswami) applies for a job as a cleaner in a mall. Manas isn’t happy, but it’s not long before the strain of his daily job begins to take its toll and he’s forced to confront his old-fashioned ideas of being the breadwinner. Ever since Das, a formidable actress, became a director, her films have always left their mark. His team up with comedian Sharma should be interesting to watch.
“Kacchey Limbu” (World Premiere) directed by Shubham Yogi, is set in Mumbai and is about two siblings who compete in competing cricket teams. Set in the backyards and makeshift locations of Mumbai, the story follows Aditi (Radhika Madan) who dreams of being a fashion designer, and her older brother Akash who drags himself to corporate job interviews despite his first and only love is cricket. When accepted into a new league, Aditi decides to compete with his brother and create his own team, assembling a motley crew of players who may not look like cricketer stars, but who may have that that need. The sport, always entertaining on screen, should once again be indulged through Yogi’s lens.
In ‘While We Watched’ (world premiere), filmmaker Vinay Shukla examines how independent reporting in India and beyond is increasingly under threat from budget cuts and, in particular, from extremists who use alternative platforms to spread misinformation. At the center of the film is veteran journalist Ravish Kumar of NDTV India who strives to uphold standards of independence and accountability. Every day he faces a new set of challenges: budget cuts, staff departures, mysterious obstructions and even death threats. His station is struggling to compete with the growing popularity of channels that replace news with fanatics yelling at their opponents. I’m looking forward to this one and curious to see how Shukla tackles this issue.
For the full TIFF 2022 lineup, visit https://tiff.net/
Sunil Sadarangani is a Mumbai-born, Los Angeles-based, multi-award-winning producer and writer who has been involved in international digital film projects for over 15 years. He has produced award-winning shorts ‘In Transit’ (TV Shorts and Oscar nomination), ‘Blind’, ‘Nova’ and ‘With You’. He is co-founder and programming director of the Ojai Short Film Festival, now in its third season. He is a founding member of the Programmers of Color Collective (POC2) and served as a jury member at the 2019 Los Angeles Greek Film Festival and assistant senior programmer at the Los Angeles Indian Film Festival. He currently volunteers on the assistant programming committee at Outfest, Los Angeles. Sunil is an officially accredited writer covering film and digital media at major film festivals and industry awards events. The California State Senate recognized him for his continued 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 was instrumental in securing IP content as well as building associations with industry leaders and creators for the company.