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3rd I, the Bay Area’s premiere showcase for South Asian film presents the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival on Nov13-16. This year the festival expands to four days and two venues.
From art-house classics to documentary films, innovative and experimental visions to next level Bollywood, the festival presents diverse images of South Asians through independent film. This year’s festival will showcase films from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, the Maldives, the global South Asian Diaspora, United Kingdom and the Unites States.
The focus of opening night is on homegrown talent. Bay Area  filmmaker Saqib Mausoof’s film Kala Pul (Black Bridge) weaves a tale along the fault lines that separate Pakistan’s urban modernity from its fundamentalism. It is preceded by the insightful short, Midnight Lost and Found (USA), directed by Amit Sabharwal, about the lonely nights of a Mumbai pharmacy worker.
Screening later on opening night is Kissing Cousins by Amyn Kaderali, a funny, sassy romantic comedy, about a man employed as a “relationship termination specialist” who enjoys his single life in Los Angeles amidst his newly engaged friends. But when his gorgeous British cousin visits, she tells everyone that she’s his girlfriend to help him fit in…until he falls for her.
Closing night will feature Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle’s sensational roller-coaster ride, the story of Jamal, a poor mischievous boy from the slums of Bombay who rises to TV game show millionaire. The film won the 2008 Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival.
Other highlights include: Ramchand Pakistani by Mehreen Jabbar that screened to much acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film is based on a true event, about a Pakistani Hindu boy and his father who accidentally cross the border into India from their village in Pakistan and spend five years in an Indian prison.
Paying homage to early cinema is Bioscope, K.M. Madhusudhanan’s directorial debut about a traveling bioscope show that comes to the villagers of Kerala. Fever dreams, memories, and moving pictures combine in this hallucinatory ode to the power of superstition.
Also screening is King Siri, an award-winning children’s film inspired in part by director Somaratne Dissanayake’s own experiences. The story is about a gifted boy from a Sri Lankan village who wins a scholarship to an elite school in Colombo and must prove himself by drawing upon the strengths of his rural traditions.
Bombay-based documentarian Nishtha Jain returns to the festival with her latest offering, Lakshmi and Me, a candid look at class issues in a rapidly modernizing India.
Another sensational documentary is The Sky Below, which follows filmmaker Sara Singh as she travels through dangerous territory in India and Pakistan while examining whether recognition of a shared past and common culture can bring about peace between the two countries 60 years after the brutal partition of the subcontinent.
Also screening is Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool, a masterful reworking of Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in the Bombay underworld, starring Irfan Khan.
Each year 3rd I pays tribute to the magical world of Bollywood and this year is no exception. From India comes Om Shanti Om, a film about romance, reincarnation, and revenge. Shah Rukh Khan breaks out his disco moves (and flexes his six-pack abs) in this spectacular, star-studded tribute to filmmaking and the swinging ’70s.
In addition the festival has several co-productions with the United States,  Denmark, France, and Germany, including a screening of the stunning newly restored print (by the BFI) of the 1929 silent film A Throw of the Dice with an remarkable new score by Nitin Sawhney.
Flow: For Love of Water examines how the world’s primary resource is being hijacked by corporate greed. Documentarian Irene Salina travels across the world documenting how dedicated activists are challenging the big corporations and offers creative, sustainable solutions from the ground-up.
On a more macabre note is Hell’s Ground, director Omar Ali Khan’s fright fest about five Pakistani teenagers who pile into a van and head to a rock concert, only to run out of gas in the zombie-infested habitat of a mace-swinging, burkha-clad butcher. This delightfully gory film is co-presented by Midnight for Maniacs.
Nov. 13-14, Brava Theater, 2789 24th St., San Francisco; and Nov. 15-16, Castro Theater, 429 Castro St., San Francisco. (415) 835-4738. Full festival lineup and information on tickets and passes can be found atwww.thirdi.org/festival.

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