Now in its 17th year, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) is a nonprofit organization devoted to a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture by showcasing films and promoting the diverse perspectives of the Indian diaspora.

The four-day festival is the premiere platform for the latest in cutting-edge global Indian cinema and bridges the gap between the two largest entertainment industries in the world – Hollywood and India. The festival will showcase nearly 25 films from the Indian filmmaking community across the globe, host the highly anticipated Opening and Closing red carpet Galas, and the Closing Awards ceremony.

We catch up with Executive Director Christina Marouda & Director of Programming Mike Dougherty.

The line up gets more interesting this year. How has the community influenced it?
MD: Over the six years I’ve worked with IFFLA, a crucial part of creating the program has been listening to our filmmakers and our audience as to what kind of films they respond to. It’s become very clear that providing a wide variety of films to choose from makes for the most satisfying festival. Some people want to be uplifted, some want to be challenged, some like to laugh, some like to cry, others want to experience something unlike anything they’ve seen before.

In 2019, with four days of programming, I think we’ve provided options for each of those groups. The common thread among all of them is confident, high-level film making from filmmakers with distinct, unique voices.

After all this time do you still see some challenges?

CMWe are a nonprofit so there is always the challenge of securing funding. We do a lot with very little. I could only imagine what we could do with more resources. Beyond that, our new challenge is the the emergence of Netflix and Amazon in the industry.

Many of the films we want to premiere get picked up by Netflix or Amazon and are released online fairly quickly, not giving us and also the filmmakers the opportunity to showcase them on a big screen in front of a live audience and with the filmmakers in attendance. The model is changing. We don’t know how long this model will last but for the moment, it is disrupting the way film festivals function. We’re of course happy that filmmakers are able to sell their films to these platforms and be available to be seen by many people. We’ll have to see how it all evolves.

You are taking some much appreciated films be it photograph, Andhadhun, Ghode ko Jalebi.. Or the shorts! FOr THE LA audience who are fans, what value add are these screenings adding to their experience?

MD: The films you’ve listed all have different value to the audience. Our ANDHADHUN screening will give the audience a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Tabu join us in person to discuss her career and highlight her work in this most recent film. PHOTOGRAPH marks a return to an Indian setting for Ritesh Batra after his worldwide hit THE LUNCHBOX, and will no doubt be a popular screening at our festival that allows for a joyous communal experience.

TAKING THE HORSE TO EAT JALEBIS, our shorts showcases and several other films like Aditya Sengupta’s beautiful JONAKI, or Ronny Sen’s amazing debut feature CAT STICKS, or Ronak Shah’s Los Angeles-set LOVE GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND, are the work of budding artists that may not get the same love and attention on the big screen outside of our festival. It may be your only chance to see these marvellous films in theaters among an eager audience, and in most cases hear the filmmakers talk about their film, and that chance shouldn’t be passed up.

What’s different and new for you in 2019?

CM: We’ve selected a single screen, gorgeous theater for the Opening and Closing Gala presentations. It is in Beverly Hills where we will be for the first time. We’re excited to be in a theater that has a charm of Broadway or classic Indian single screen theater look and feel.

Furthermore, we’re going to be looking at the current landscape of Television and the representation of South Asian talent. An area where a lot of extremely talented voices from the Diaspora are working is in television, and we’ll be hosting a panel discussion among some of the most successful South Asian professionals working in that space, like director Meera Menon, Roshan Sethi, who created Fox’s The Resident, and actor Karan Soni, who stars alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi in TBS’ Miracle Workers. This will be the ideal event for young professionals looking to start their own careers.

There’s a strong Vernacular lineup in 2019 with Chippa, JONAKI, Sweet Requiem ETC, how did you go about selecting those, was it the Directors, their festival association in the past or something else?

Some films, like JONAKI, are the work of IFFLA alumni whose films we always keep a close eye on. Others, like CHIPPA, are the feature debuts of directors who show a unique visual and storytelling sensibility that we think will play well with our audience.

The program is a combination of films we found on the festival circuit, and films that were submitted to us blindly. CHIPPA was a blind submission, as was our Los Angeles-based feature LOVE GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND. And our stellar shorts program is almost entirely films we found among the hundreds of submissions sent our way.