IFFLA 2022: Grand Jury Prize for Once Upon a Time in Calcutta; Audience Choice is Jaggi

iNDICA News Bureau-

The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) announced Sunday the awards for its 20th annual edition which featured a celebratory return to in-theater screenings and presentations.

Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Once Upon a Time in Calcutta won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film while Anmol Sidhu’s Jaggi received the inaugural Uma da Cunha Award for Best Feature Film Debut as well as the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature.

IFFLA executive director Christina Marouda said, “This year’s edition of the film festival was wonderful in so many ways. The excitement felt by the reunion of so many of our filmmakers, patrons and film fans back in theaters was something we all shared.

“The months and weeks leading to the festival, we weren’t sure whether people will show up after a three-year break from an in- person festival. We were overwhelmed to see everyone coming back, eager to reconnect with the community and the IFFLA family, watch films and celebrate our 20th anniversary.

“We walk away from this year’s festival energized and filled with gratitude,” she added.

In the feature film category, Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Once Upon a Time in Calcutta was cited for “its sprawling, operatic depiction of broken people desperate to connect and its poetic mastery of cinematic craft” by the IFFLA jury.

An honorable mention went to Shankar’s Fairies, Irfana Majumdar’s restrained and lyrical portrait of the unconditional bond between a young girl and the gentleman who cares for her family.

At the 20th anniversary edition of the festival, a year which saw the introduction of new programs and initiatives, a new award was presented in honor of IFFLA’s beloved advisor in India, Uma da Cunha, who has been a founding member of the festival, always championing Indian independent cinema and emerging voices.

Regarding her selection of Sidhu’s Jaggi, which follows a schoolboy in rural Punjab who faces toxic masculinity and sexual abuse when he is assumed to be gay, da Cunha said, “Few independent films in India are made in the Punjabi language and fewer still find their way into festivals to reach a wider audience.

“This film needs to be seen in a milieu where sexual matters tend not to be addressed openly.”

Festival programming co-director Ritesh Mehta added, “We’re absolutely thrilled with these winners, especially the audience choice winner Jaggi, a story about themes no one talks about which desperately need attention, told with audacity and vulnerability from a first-time filmmaking team.

“What more can we programmers ask for? Stories come to us, enthrall us, move our audiences and now empower their creators to continue their narrative activism from their distinctive corners of the world.”

In the Short Film category, the Grand Jury Prize went to Amrita Bagchi’s Succulent. The jury stated that the film “beautifully taps into our deep longing for genuine connection in a world that is increasingly artificial”.

The Grand Jury Prize for Best Short in the inaugural Spotlight on South Asia section went to Salar Pashtoonyar’s Bad Omen (Afghanistan/Canada). The jury remarked that it was “a raw and visceral film that showed us that above all else, honest filmmaking always wins”.

Honorable mentions in the Short Film category went to Megha Ramaswamy’s Lalanna’s Song, with the jury stating that the film impressed them with its daring, boundary-pushing filmmaking and two extraordinary lead performances, and Akanksha Cruczynski’s Close Ties to Home Country. The jury said the latter film “starts out absurd and hilarious, but sucker-punched us with the truth when we least expected it”.

Festival programming co-director Thouly Dosios said, “Sixteen true gems of films comprised our shorts selection this year, featuring some of the most thematically daring and formally groundbreaking works in the lineup. The Audience Choice Award for Best Short went to the irresistible, wildly ambitious and stimulating debut, 7 Star Dinosor Entertainment by Vaishali Naik, a film that takes head on the uncertain times we live in, with a story that is brimming with poetry, humor and a lot of soul.”

The feature films jury included Lakshmi Iyengar (executive vice-president, Minor Realm); Smriti Mundhra (Academy Award nominee and director, St Louis Superman); and Jonathan Wysocki (director, Dramarama).

The short films jury comprised Geetika Lizardi (writer, Bridgerton, Mira, Royal Detective); Sid Mehra (manager of development and production, Endeavor Content); and Carey Williams (director, Emergency, R#J).

Highlights of this year’s edition included the opening night gala presentation of Pan Nalin’s Last Film Show aka Chhello Show, the inauguration of the new Spotlight on South Asia section, a virtual 20th Anniversary Shorts special program celebrating the festival’s history, a masterclass with Anurag Kashyap, and the festival’s annual One-on-One program where filmmakers were paired with a series of industry executives.

In another new feather in IFFLA’s cap, the festival’s closing night first look event featured Kahlil Maskati’s feature screenplay in development, Alim Uncle, presented as a live table read brought to life by a dozen top Los Angeles-based actors, including Rizwan Manji and Nabeel Muscatwalla, and a preview of Nimisha Mukerji and Mark Ratzlaff’s Warner Bros Discovery 150-supported project, New Country, that included a reading and a live musical performance.

Following is the full list of IFFLA 2022 award-winning films and filmmakers.

Uma Da Cunha Award (for Best Debut Feature): Jaggi
Director: Anmol Sidhu

Grand Jury Prize Awards

Best Feature Film: Once Upon a Time in Calcutta
Director: Aditya Vikram Sengupta

Honorable Mention: Shankar’s Fairies
Director: Irfana Majumdar

Best Short Film: Succulent
Director: Amrita Bagchi

Honorable Mention: Lalanna’s Song
Director: Megha Ramaswamy

Honorable Mention: Close Ties to Home Country
Director: Akanksha Cruczynski

Best Short Film (Spotlight on South Asia): Bad Omen
Director: Salar Pashtoonyar

Audience Choice Awards

Feature Film: Jaggi
Director: Anmol Sidhu

Short Film: 7 Star Dinosor Entertainment
Director: Vaishali Naik