At IFFSA this year, let’s talk about miracles, let’s talk about the wondrous, the marvellous, the amazing.

There are days, of course, and we all have these days, when we look at the history of our time, the intolerance and violence that seem to surround us all the time and we sadly concede to ourselves that the colour of a flower is simply an augury of its decay or that love is just a coincidental meeting. Nothing to marvel at.

Often, we feel ourselves as someone with a cardiac heart problem who is all the more conscious of the heartbeat because of the constant fear that it might stop any moment. That’s our world today, beating in fear. We look into the horizon and we see the sky red with blood and fire.

Let’s look again and, this time, look at ourselves: perhaps the real ramification, the fatal force of this fear is that it has transformed all of us into onlookers. We’ve become a spectator of our time, a bystander, a sightseer. At best, maybe a witness. In short, it seems, we’ve accepted to watch rather than aspire any more to challenge and change the history of our time.

This is how it seems, but we know that’s not the complete truth. We know that there is at least one other force that could help us overcome our fear, help us break out of our paralysis. And that’s what we do, we turn towards that other force: we turn to each other – our friends, our companions. We come together.

We find various ways to speak with each other, we use our imagination to find ways that help us break the boundaries between us. We use poetry, song, we screen films, we talk through the day, we talk through the night. We act out our feelings, we cook for each other, we even dance. Thus, step by step, we begin to take part in helping each other, we participate, contribute, become involved in finding a way to battle our fears.

Very quickly, we realise that our simple act of coming together has miraculously transformed us from spectators to participants. We are no longer onlookers, we now have something to do. Our coming together, our sharing, our imagination, our songs, our eating together, watching films together, dancing together has not only freed us from our fear, but has joined us with another force to resist that fear at all levels.

What is this new force that we have created together? The new force we have joined together to create is – celebration.

This is it, then, this is what we are attempting here at IFFSA: To celebrate.

Celebrate our coming together from so many different parts of the world, coming together to share and create together. Here, suddenly, there is no fear that has dominion over us,  no prejudice, zealotry or discrimination of any kind that we could not together overcome. Here, now, the colour of a flower augurs spring, the unstoppable proclamation of life.

This is IFFSA, an international film festival, but more than that a celebration of each and everyone of us who gathers here. A celebration as much of the filmmakers, their films as of our audiences – whose participation transforms these films into feelings, perceptions and empathy leading all of us to an appreciation and respect for what otherwise might have stayed distant, strange and, therefore, suspect!

Please come, one and all, to celebrate ‘Wolf and Sheep’, directed by Shahrbanoo Sadat, a young director from Afghanistan. Winner of the Directors’ Fortnight’s top award,  Cannes, the film is an imaginative and cinematic feat, memorialising the daily life of a remote village in Central Afghanistan with folkloric, magical realism.

There are more feasts for the eyes, emotion and reflection: the black-and-white crime thriller, ‘Gurgaon’, by another first-time director, Shankar Raman, one of India’s celebrated cinematographers.

Then, one of the festival favourites of this year, the  tragi-comic political  fable, ‘Newton’, directed by Amit V Masurkar, with one of the finest young actors of Indian cinema, Rajkumar Roy.

Do not miss the banned-in-India, profoundly ironic film about four rebellious women,  ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, directed by Alankrita Shrivastava.

And Ananya Kasaravalli’s ‘Harikatha Prasanga’, another challenging film about a male actor who performs female roles and his struggles with society, family and his own sense of identity.

There is a banquet of Bengali films, including ‘Gahin Hriday’ by Agnidev Chatterjee, about a woman caught in a love-triangle, with the luminous actress Rituparna Sengupta and from Bangladesh, Abdullah Mohammed Saad’s ‘Live From Dhaka’.

It is a joy and an honour for us to present a new widescreen version, with 5.1 sound of one of the most notable Punjabi films, ‘Chann Pardesi’, which celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Our Opening Films are the Punjabi film ’Lahoriye’, directed by Amberdeep Singh, with the fabulously talented, gentle and gracious actor, Amrinder Gill and Yash Raj Films’ ‘Meri Pyaari Bindu’, directed by Akshay Roy, with Ayushmann Khurrana, Parineeti Chopra and ‘The Black Prince’ by Kavi Raz, about Maharaja Duleep Singh.

And, finally, the film seize is certainly Gurvinder Singh’s ‘Chauthi Koot’, which premiered at Cannes in 2015. Set in Punjab during 1980s, Chauthi Koot is adapted from two stories written by Canada-based Punjabi writer, Waryam Singh Sandhu, called ‘Chauthi Koot’ and ‘Hun Main Theek Haan’

So, this is IFFSA this year: a celebration of light and dark, all colours and each and everyone of us who gathers here. At IFFSA this year, let’s talk about, participate in and make miracles together!

My very best wishes to all,

Anup Singh