Welcome to Rishikesh International Film Festival 2020!

AGNIYOGANA – Lower the Head, Invoke the Fire

Director – Emma Balnaves
March 14

AGNIYOGANA is a meditative inquiry into the lost art of classical Hatha Yoga. Offering an experiential collage of action and stillness, light and darkness, sound and silence, AGNIYOGANA explores the richness of traditional Hatha Yoga teachings and the deeply connected states of heart, mind, and freedom these practices deliver to sincere truth seekers. AGNIYOGANA takes the viewer on a journey through time and space to rediscover the inner dimensions of Hatha Yoga and reconnect the human spirit to the true meaning of “yug,” the connecting root of all yogas.


Director – Jitendra Rai
March 15

Millions of children are engaged in child labour in India, in an increasingly growing number every year. And with that, millions of childhood dreams are never realised as a result of a lack of education. Baitullah is the story of one such child, with a dream, surviving in the maddening metropolis of Mumbai, waiting for someone to notice.


Director – Anna Bohlmark
March 15

“Big Social Nomad” presents the threats elephants are facing in modern India of today. It poses crucial questions of what needs and what can be done to stop this negative trend from happening. It also offers an insight into the complex issue of who land should belong to. India, with all its multidimensional culture, is today the hub for the wild elephants. Though the threat to their survival is apparent, there is also much hope to be found in the country. A hope deeply rooted in Indian society, among people who nurture a profound love for this animal.


Director – VS Sanoj
March 15

‘Burning’ is a conversation between two young mothers brought together by strange and cruel social realities, at a funeral ghat in Varanasi. Facing myriad forms of patriarchal violence, they build an instant bonding and understanding towards each other while trying to strike a bizarre deal they were pushed to negotiate.


Director – Mark Waters
March 12

Director Mark Waters’ visually stunning documentary follows James Sebastiano, a materially successful young man, as he engages in a perpetual battle against anxiety. During this life-changing journey James explores why a person who seemingly has it all, can still suffer from debilitating panic attacks in the hope that he can learn how to finally break free from his crippling anxiety. On a worldwide journey of self discovery from the streets of New York, to the stillness of the Ganges, and deep into the jungles of Peru, he unexpectedly uncovers deep truths about who and what he is.

DARSHAN – Blessing of Saints

Director – Burt Chojnowski
March 12

Intimate conversations with holy men and women in Rishikesh and Northern India including babas, swami’s and yogis. It includes a visit to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles visit to Rishikesh to practice Transcendental Meditation.


Director – Marc Baraka
March 12

Divine Mother – The 108 images presented here were done one at a time as a photographic sketch, each day at the end of my meditation sadhana for 108 days.

PARA: Unbounded Stillness in Motion briefly explores the experience of transcendence as a baseline for experiencing the elements, fire, water, earth, air, and space through direct cognition. In sutra-like poetic form, AGNI [fire] explores the power of creation and the might of disruption, its manifestation in our personal hero’s journey and our world. AP [water] is the third of the film series metaphorically using the five elements from a Vedic perspective.


Director – Payal Saxena
March 15

Echoes is a story of two lonely souls, mother and her daughter, finally having a heart to heart conversation, sharing special moments of their lives. It is an intense discussion which takes them on a journey bridging the distance in their relationship. This new found understanding, could it have helped them both fighting with their own demons and fears, in filling that emptiness and dark places? The world can be a lonely and scary place if you have no one to share it with. In the end all that is left is some pieces of memories that are shattered and filled with regrets. The film goes through up and downs and ends tearing your heart as it is just echoes’ of pain within which resounds your entire universe.


Director – R.A. Fedde
March 14

Five Faces of Shiva follows the rise and fall of the popularity of Hindu god lithographs, arguably India’s first mass media. Lithography — a printing technique which allowed for highly detailed and affordable copies of images — allowed people from all walks of life to own their own direct connection to the gods and goddesses they loved. From the complicated backdrop of British colonization which led to coded messages of rebellion hidden in the prints themselves, to rival presses outdoing one another to the point of ruin, to the dramatic mythological stories depicted in the images, the film explores their deep history and religious symbolism. Interviews and on-site experiences with collectors, historians, artists, and devotees help to shape our understanding of these astonishing images. Today, Indian contemporary artists still explore the resonance of these powerful images.

GANGA AARTI – Video Journey to India

Director – Inessa Garder

Ganga Aarti film tells the story of an unexpected series of paintings made on a journey to India. Suspend everything for this time and leap with me into the world of Art & Adventure. You might find that you have wings.


Director – Chandni Srivastava
March 13

‘Here’ is about discovering our reality by connecting with nature that co exists in a world filled with reveries and illusion. Everything is ‘Here’, we only find what we seek.


Director – Michael Yorke
March 14

The movie is the story of two Hindu ascetic persons (sadhu). Uma is a Swedish woman, and Vasisth Giri, an Indian man. Together, they go on a pilgrimage of self-discovery into the Himalaya Mountains, towards the springs of River Ganges, in pursuit of Hindu saints and mystics. During their journey, they meet a sadhu who has not spoken a word for twelve years. They sleep in caves and huts of the ascetics. After twenty-seven years of searching, Uma finally finds her spiritual mentor she has been looking for all her life.


Director – Praveen K. Chaturvedi
March 14

A new journey begins. Moonlight Pictures’ mega documentary “In Search of a Sadhguru” takes us to the Himalayas and other remote places throughout India. The film explores the sacred ancient Indian Guru-Shishya Parampara, and how the self realized gurus led generations to the path of enlightenment and freedom.


Director – Nilima Abrams
March 16

Kali Yuga Chants follows “Uncle” and “Aunty”, a mixed-race couple living in India, and the 35 children they’re raising in a makeshift foster family. The film chronicles individual kids’ transformations over ten years: from begging and picking through garbage, to learning meditation and math, gaining confidence and navigating teenage crushes and turbulent emotions. Under the mentorship of an internationally-known teacher, the teenaged girls become expert chanters of Hinduism’s ancient Vedic mantras, which helps them to break free from the caste and gender stigma of their births, but ironically also brings backlash from the established elite and male priests.


Directors – Jane Dyson and Ross Harrison
March 16

When Saraswati arrives as the first educated daughter-in-law in a Himalayan village, she wonders how she will ever feel at home. But faced with the scepticism of an older generation of women, she grows determined to succeed. As the village’s ten-day Pandav Lila festival approaches, the film offers a window onto the everyday work and spiritual practices that bind people to each other and the land. An intimate story of longing and belonging in India’s sacred mountains, ‘Spirit’ explores what it takes to make a home in a remote community in the thralls of change.


Director – Naveed Mulki
March 14

Kalaripayattu is the most ancient martial art in the world. It was once a way of life in the quiet coastline of India. It remained the backbone of the society there for a thousand years till the British empire came along and banned the martial art as it viewed it as a threat. They systematically broke down every practice of the art and would have succeeded in completely destroying it, if it wasn’t for the efforts of a few Kalaripayattu masters. These masters secretly kept alive their traditions in little pockets and practiced it for many years and generations in the dark. When India gained its independence from the British empire, Kalaripayattu finally had its chance to find its way back into society.


Director – Vijeta Sharma
March 14

From the time immemorial, Himalayas are considered to be the birthplace of yoga. This is a story of a regular mountain boy Rajat Thakur transforming into Himalayan yogi. “A tribute to all my gurus and all the saints & sages who walked the Yogic path and left behind their divinity for mankind.” – Rajat Thakur


Director – Neelabh Bafna
March 15

Sandhya is the daughter of a sex worker from Asia’s biggest red-light district, in Mumbai. She was denied education in her own country and bullied, because of her background and color. She fights for her dreams against all odds. Will she get the education she deserves?


Director – Disha Arora
March 13

Women and Religion in India is a journey of one woman across the country to create a dialogue about the weakening of women’s rights under the guise of religion. This documentary is an attempt to capture the current day practices of all the major religions in different parts of India with an aim to understand what position and rights do women enjoy. Some of the issues covered in the documentary include discriminatory practices in different religions in India; Menstruation and Purity; the impact of growing religious fundamentalism on women’s rights; women as religious leaders; and women’s entry in religious places.