Indian cinema in Germany More than dance, flowers and songs

Indian Film Festivals
Indian Film Festivals | Photo: © Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi/ Indisches Filmfestival Stuttgart/Chalo India/IndoGerman

For most Germans, when they think of Indian film from Bollywood, they think of bombastic, colorful films with dancing, flowers, and singing. They might think of Shah Rukh Khan, Irrfan Khan or Freida Pinto. For several years now the festivals in Germany dedicate themselves to the Indian cinema - and demonstrate its diversity beyond Bollywood and international stars.    


The most important amongst these is the Indian Film Festival of Stuttgart, Europe's biggest Indian Film Festival. Impetus for the festival was a trip to India by local politicians and entrepreneurs with the Indian Consul in 2004. In Stuttgart’s twin city, Mumbai they then jointly developed the idea to start a festival of Indian films back home. Ever since, it takes place over five days in July each year. The festival is organized by the non-profit cultural association, The Filmbüro Baden-Württemberg. 

The organizers are enthusiastic about India and its films. "Our goal is to plug Stuttgart and its surrounds into our Indian fever," says festival director Oliver Mahn. The audience has grown steadily over the past 12 years. Meanwhile, the festival is no longer visited only particularly by the ones interested in culture, but a lot of new fans and enthusiasts. This year a total of about 5,000 spectators came. 

Among the 40 films that the festival showcased, there were only a select few films from Bollywood, the popular Hindi cinema; and, contrary to clichés, there was no dancing. The Stuttgart Festival additionally presents its audience every year with many other regional language film industries of India: the Tamil cinema, the Malayalam cinema, or the Marathi cinema, which was the focus of the program in 2014. In addition to blockbusters, there were independent films, documentaries, and short films. The program is supplemented with school screenings, panel discussions (so-called Tea Talks), dramas, and dance workshops.


Since 2009, the "New Generations - Independent Indian Film Festival" has been taking place in the Orfeos Erben Cinema in Frankfurt. Founder and director of the festival are the journalist Petra Klaus and the musician Binu Kurian Joseph – the son of Indian immigrants. Both have long been active in the Frankfurt cultural scene. They established New Generations, because they missed such a festival in Germany: one that shows only independent movies with a focus on India. They felt at that time that there were changes in the Indian cinema. "Because a fresh generation of filmmakers became visible, with a new cinematic language and new stories," says Petra Klaus. Stories that increasingly deal with political and social issues recounted in captivating, realistic, and complex manner.

In the three days of the festival in October or November, the New Generations bring carefully chosen films from and about India to Frankfurt, many being screened for the first time in Germany. The 2015 festival opened with Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan, the winner of the Golden Palm at Cannes 2015. The festival organizers have a well established network within the new Indian film scene and every year try to invite directors to Frankfurt. In 2014, Anand Gandhi, Ruchika Muchala, and Kamal were invited to showcase their premieres; in 2015 it would be Dr. Biju, among others.

Münster and Berlin

Even in Münster and Berlin there are minor Indian Film Festivals.  The Chalo India in Münster endeavours - through its choice of films - to show an India devoid of the stereotypes. For the organizers this means: Movies "with an eye for beauty, without necessarily fading out the shortcomings". The organizers of the Indian Film Club, Münster brought the three-day festival, "Indian joie de vivre" in the city in 2013. That same year, the Indo-German Film Week was launched in Berlin.          

The Berlin festival organizers are particularly concerned with cultural encounters. Workshops, discussions, and Laughter Yoga classes are aimed at bringing German and Indian filmmakers and fans together and discussing the opportunities for collaborations. The week-long festival is organized by film production, Life Entertainment, and the Babylon cinema.