The festival was conceived in 1997 by Dr. Pushpinder Chowdhry MBE and Mrs Harvinder Nath, who both recognised the impact that films can have on society, particularly when tackling complex and challenging issues.
Over the years, the festival has brought the work of acclaimed talents in cinema including award-winning filmmakers. Some of our special guests include Mira Nair, Gurinder Chadha, Aparna Sen, Ramesh Sippy, Meera Syal, Shabana Azmi, Mahira Khan, Nandita Das, Madhur Jaffrey, Kiron Kher, the Bachchan family, Radhika Apte, Zeenat Aman and Bollywood legend Helen.
Since 2017 the festival’s reach has extended to other cities throughout the UK. The UK Asian Film Festival’s programme is now represented in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockton, Manchester, Coventry, Leicester and London.
UK Asian Film Festival aims to entertain, inform and educate communities through film and arts linked to South Asia. Produced by Tongues on Fire annually for almost 25 years, UKAFF celebrates South Asian culture, its vibrancy and its many dimensions through storytelling, live events, masterclasses and cinema screenings. The festival provides a platform for emerging talent to showcase their work, offers networking occasions with industry leaders and provides wider learning opportunities for the filmmaking community. UKAFF enables all communities to have access to stories that transform their perspective of the world.
We strive to be:
All our activities are brought together by common values and a shared approach. We create and present high-quality activities that promotes the authentic voice of South Asian communities and reflects a genuine sense of place.
UK Asian Film Festival is at a very exciting time in our development. With each edition, UKAFF grows from the London centric festival to reach and engage with communities nationally. As we approach our 25th anniversary, we want to transform into a sustainable international entity.
Young Curators Lab
The Young Curators Lab is a pioneering initiative launched by Tongues on Fire in 2019. The aim is to equip upcoming film curators with specific skills, knowledge and analytical acumen indispensable to film programming and curation. The Young Curators attend a series of intensive workshops to learn about curatorial roles and responsibilities, best practices and how to develop a discerning eye to pick out and curate the best films for film festivals. The workshops are followed by a screening and evaluation day held at Queen Mary University of London.
Short Film Competition
The annual Tongues on Fire Short Film Competition has been established since 2005. The short film competition and screening are just one element of our programmes devised to showcase and support the South Asian Independent Film and Arts. It is also an opportunity for emerging talent to submit films to the UK Asian Film Festival and be part of the vibrant screening programme.
Tongues on Fire’s Digital Commissions programme provides an opportunity for emerging artists to be mentored and create new digital art through collaboration with artists working across all art forms. The digital art works act as a catalyst for development and innovation, sharing ideas, concepts and new work.
Members of the public enjoyed the free outdoor screenings and live entertainment from deck chair seating in Arena Square, set against the dramatic backdrop of The SSE Arena, Wembley.
The final event was a screening of Sangeeta Datta’s Life Goes On, and was attended by the director and cast, including internationally renowned actress Sharmila Tagore.
Audiences enjoyed modern, cult classics on an outdoor cinema screen, hosted by High Rise Projections. The innovative, drive-in cinematic project was conceptualised in collaboration with BollyCo, and was organised in adherence to COVID-19 guidelines set by the Government.
Each event included a line-up of live entertainment from DJ Shraii and the Bollywood Co. Popcorn, snacks, Indian street food and a selection of beverages were also available for the audience to enjoy from the comfort of their vehicle.
Led by Tongues on Fire in collaboration with Queen Mary, University of London. The Heritage Team carried out a series of interviews with the public asking them to share on camera their earliest memories of Indian cinema as well as the enduring influence of Indian cinema in their lives.
The result was Movies, Memories, Magic, a documentary film exploring the dynamic relationship that the British South Asian diaspora has with Indian cinema. The film paints a vibrant picture of how iconic South Asian films were screened in renowned cinema halls in London, from the winding alleyways of Brick Lane to the bustling streets of Southall, galvanised cultural conversations and shaped trends in music, food, fashion and politics. From cinema stalwarts such as Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, film classics such as Mother India and Sholay and the razzmatazz of Bollywood, to the bold and bravura brand of new Indian Indie cinema, the film’s inter-generational contributors reminisce about how cinema spaces and viewing practices have transformed over time. This film is a testament to how the magic of movies and the indelible memories they inscribe have catalysed a hyphenated cultural identity – rooted in local London and blended with global South Asian culture.
In addition to the heritage documentary, a unique exhibition entitled “Memories Through Cinema” was curated, showcasing artefacts that had been collated from the general public. The exhibition compliments the documentary by taking audiences through a visual narrative of the history of Indian cinema and cinema going from the perspective of the general public living in the UK.
In November 2018 the project proudly received a Queen Mary University of London Community Engagement Award. Movies, Memories, Magic has been screened to communities across the UK and internationally in India, Dubai and South Africa.
Thanks to cinema, Tongues on Fire offers a wide range of events aimed to build bridges and promote a better understanding between communities. Films know no boundaries and our aim is to transcend all boundaries with the help of this unique form of art that ignites emotions and makes people think.
From the beginning, our Festival has always been alongside women; Tongues onFire celebrates women in film, especially making Asian women visible in media and arts. Over the years, we have tried to subvert stereotypes associated with the ‘Asian female’ and we have learnt the dynamism of Asian women working within this sector, be it in front of the camera or behind the scenes never ceases to amaze. In 2011, to commemorate 100 years of International Women’s Day, Tongues on Fire launched the Nargis Dutt lecture, at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
In 2019 we screened over 30 films made by female filmmakers, and spearheaded the Women in Cinema and Creative Arts lunch to encourage networking between women in the film and arts industries. TOF passionately believes in working with community groups at grass root level. We welcome enquiries on how we can work with you to achieve your goals, specifically with reaching the wider South Asian community.