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#LIFF2014: Of Scourges, Horrors, Pitchers, Americans, Marionnettes and Adivasis

As Indian summer's go, the 2014 edition in Britain is set to be a scorcher.

The record temperatures have only been matched by a steady stream of South Asia-centric events that have kept devotees of everything sub-continental utterly enthralled: from the outstanding Alchemy Festival on the Southbank through appearances by everyone from the Sachal Jazz Ensemble and Shreya Ghoshal to the London Asian Film Festival.

This week sees the return of the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) for its 5th annual edition, packed with a superb roster of films that will doubtless reaffirm the Festival's position as the pre-eminent showcase for independent South Asian cinema in Europe.

In a nod to the busy schedule this summer, which also includes an Indian cricket tour of England and the Commonwealth Games, LIFF organizers have condensed this year's festival to a week.

The number of screenings for each film are increased, ensuring that everyone gets an opportunity to indulge in the rapid rise in independent cinema from the sub-continent: a growth that is in no small part due to festivals such as LIFF.

In a world of formulas, sequels, prequels, re-jigs and re-hashes, the irresistible appeal of independent cinema stems from its originality as well as the frequently fascinating stories behind the films.

Here are some of the highlights of the Festival which takes place across London July 10 - Jul 17.

'Sold' (Opening Night)

The second feature about the scourge of child-trafficking to open a South Asian film festival in London in as many months, after Nagesh Kukunoor's 'Lakshmi'. 'Sold' is arguably the more high-profile of the two. Directed by award-winning American filmmaker Jeffrey D Brown, 'Sold' is executive-produced by Oscar-winning British actor, writer and producer Emma Thompson and features Hollywood stars Gillian Anderson and David Arquette and 'Bandit Queen' actress Seema Biswas in key roles. Intriguingly, the film's central character is named 'Lakshmi'. 'Sold' is adapted from Patricia McCormick's 2006 novel of the same name, a tale that is an amalgamation of McCormick's exhaustively researched stories as she travelled between the villages in rural Nepal where girls as young as 13 are abducted from, and the sordid brothels in Kolkata where they are forced into prostitution. A film that is resplendent in symbolism, director Brown explores India's eternal paradox: the veneration of innumerable Goddesses and the continued, often brutal, oppression of the country's women. Authentic and deeply troubling.

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