Cinema: Untold story of partition

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Gurinder Chadha OBE is the director of the much-loved Bend it Like Beckham, Bhaji on the Beach and Bride and Prejudice.

One of the best known film makers in Britain, her latest film, VICEROY’S HOUSE, is out this week and we’re delighted to welcome Gurinder to the Showroom on Friday evening to take part in a post-screening Q&A.

VICEROY’S HOUSE is a personal story for her, inspired by the life of her grandmother, and I’m sure many other people will find personal connections here.

The Partition of India and subsequent creation of Pakistan happened 70 years ago this year. This seems to me to be a surprising short time ago and it is a story relatively untold in film. For many of people in Britain, this moment in history is part of their family histories and for Gurinder to make this film seems apt and timely.

The story plays out in the house of the last Viceroy of India, Mountbatten, as he negotiates the end of British rule and the future for the country. His wife, played by the wonderful Gillian Anderson, guides him as much as possible and takes a more genuine interest in the people and culture of India than previous inhabitants of the house. However, what is more urgent, volatile and inevitably dangerous is what is happening among the other inhabitants of the house: the hundreds of staff who keep the colonial seat up and running.

Tensions are high and a young couple, Jeet and Aalia, find themselves torn between their love and their religions. I’m sure that this film will strike a chord in many people’s hearts and have resonance with their own histories and that Sheffielders will have plenty of questions from Gurinder when she comes.

Also released this week is a new film from another brilliant female filmmaker, Kelly Reichardt.

For a long time Reichardt’s films have struggled to break out from a small indie release.

However, with CERTAIN WOMEN, the star power of Kristen Stewart and Michelle Williams may combine to help reach a larger audience. There are few filmmakers that focus on the lives of regular working-class Americans and even fewer that focus on women’s experiences in this world.

CERTAIN WOMEN, combines the stories of moments in these women’s lives, how they intersect and interact, and the struggles and successes they encounter.

With fantastic performances from the entire cast, these women’s lives light up the screen, in an otherwise rural, wintry scene. With feminist filmmaking at its core, this is also the best working-class story told from the other side of the Atlantic since American Honey.