What's New - Festival Highs

Anubhav Sinha’s ‘Mulk’ Best Film at 18th River to River Festival

by Rutwij Nakhwa


Founded in 2001, River to River Florence Indian Film Festival is the only festival in Italy, completely focused on Indian Cinema, and held annually with carefully curated film screenings, Q&As with crew and actors, and a multitude of side events. Earlier this week, the 2019 festival concluded with its award ceremony. The winning films, as well as other “best of festival” titles, will screen at Milan’s Spazio Oberdan cinema theatre, all through February 2019.

Taapsee Pannu (center) with Festival Director Selvaggia Velo

‘Mulk’ by Anubhav Sinha received the Best Film award. The film, a courtroom drama set in Varanasi, features Rishi Kapoor as the patriarch of a Muslim family in Varanasi implicated in the planning of a terrorist attack. Defending them in court is their Hindu daughter-in-law, played by Taapsee Pannu. Released in India earlier this year, ‘Mulk’ was well-received by critics and audiences alike, largely due to terrific performances by its principal cast, which also includes Manoj Pahwa and Ashutosh Rana, and also for providing a necessary rupture in the prevalent climate of Islamophobia. Pannu was at River to River, where Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Manmarziyaan’ (‘Husband Material’), which she also stars in, was the Closing Film. During the ceremony, she shared, “Receiving this award is a wonderful ending to my journey in Italy. This is the first award won by ‘Mulk’ and I would love it to be the start of a winning season for this film”.

The audience voted for the Best Documentary award, which went to the French film, ‘Grandir au Ladakh’ by Christiane Mordelet and Stanzin Dorjai. Set in Ladakh, the film is on a 12-year-old and her inseparable little sister. On the Himalayan plateau, 4300 meters above sea level, life is tough, but the locals have a benefit system for children, to integrate them into the “adult world” through lessons from their parents, grandparents and others, the school, as well as through the study and practice of Buddhism.

The Best Short award went to Martin Ponferrada’s ‘Everything is Upstream’ (Australia, Philippines, Korea, Thailand, Tibet, China), an animated documentary about dreams. The film interviews three Buddhist monks and a practitioner. The first shares a recurring nightmare of being pursued by an angry mob; the second describes the exhilaration of saving drowning people using a flying boat; the third dreams of becoming one with a comet; and fourth of being lost in a desert and encountering a mystical elder.

The six-day festival, from December 6 to 11, showcased 27 films, which included Italian and European premieres, and presented over 35 events, including screenings, photo exhibitions, interactions with actors, cooking classes, and experimental events. From India, director Akarsh Khurana was in attendance to present his on-the-road comedy ‘Karwaan’. 

The Festival’s Director and Founder, Selvaggia Velo shares, “The Festival ends with some outstanding films, a keen audience, lots of guests, a wide variety of topics and the accolades of the institutions.”