Apr 06, 2012
It's a cinematic story you've heard a million times before: girl
moves to the big city, falls in love with the magic of film, establishes
the bridge between the world's two strongest industries. Wait, what?
Bollywood -- a name that has grown from kitschy buzzword to the very
definition of global media powerhouse. But Indian cinema has grown
beyond the glitz-and-glamour often associated with the big budget
productions of Mumbai, and the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
(IFFLA) is one organization that seeks to discover and showcase that
Reaching its decade anniversary this year, IFFLA has one unique
advantage over other India-themed fests -- it's held right in the heart
of Hollywood. Serving as a bridge between the US and the Indian
entertainment industries, the festival was founded by Christina Marouda,
a young woman from the island of Crete in Greece. Working at the
American Film Institute at the time, Marouda realized that despite being
the most prolific industry in the world, there was no platform for
Indian films in the United States. That did not make sense to her given
her knowledge of India having the largest film industry in the world.
Marouda starting watching Indian films as a teenager in Greece along
with her sister, at times sans subtitles. This early love of Hindi &
Tamil cinema was the passion that, when combined with her professional
experience, inspired that very first festival. It was the time of Monsoon Wedding and Lagaan
having made their mark in the US. Marouda's intent was to provide
exposure to films in search of a solid platform that would go beyond
just a cultural event for the diaspora.
There was a lot of cold-calling that initial lean year as Marouda and
associates reached out to filmmakers to submit for IFFLA's inaugural
program. Then, the small but dedicated team pursued sponsors, secured
travel arrangements and hospitality for its guests, and pounded the
pavement from Hollywood to Little India to raise support and awareness
for the festival.
"We look back on our first decade with a sense of exhilaration and
pride. From the very beginning, our mission was to establish a film
festival that would not only pave the way for a greater appreciation of
Indian cinema and culture in the U.S., but also serve as the portal
between the two largest entertainment industries in the world," says
While it sprung from modest means, the drive and dedication of
Marouda and her ever-growing team proved fruitful, as IFFLA developed
into a breeding ground for emerging talent. IFFLA's first ever Film Fund
Grant winner Kranti Kanade's winning script Against Itself (a.k.a. Gandhi of the Month) is now a feature film starring Oscar-nominated actor Harvey Keitel in the lead role.
Marouda points out, "We've had filmmakers who came here with a
three-minute short film some years ago, their first time out of India,
who are now making films with US studios and are being represented by
top agencies like Creative Artists Agency."
That kind of support bridge is invaluable not only to filmmakers
looking to find a worldwide audience, but to an increasing batch of
Hollywood movers and shakers looking towards the global marketplace to
make their mark.
So what does the 10th anniversary have in store? Marouda says, "I
look forward to the next decade with zeal and I anticipate what IFFLA's
board and staff will be able to achieve as the dialogue between these
two film industries continues to flourish, and the content they create
continues to evolve and be refined."