3rd i Films Go Beyond Bollywood

The 21st annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (SFISAFF) has become a much-anticipated event for film enthusiasts and cultural connoisseurs around the world. Organized by 3rd i Films, it continues to captivate audiences with its rich tapestry of South Asian cinema, serving as a platform for filmmakers to showcase their talent while fostering cultural understanding and celebrating the diversity of South Asian cultures. 

Presented Oct 20-22 at The Roxie in San Francisco, SFISAFF has always been more than just a film festival; it’s a celebration of diversity and a showcase of the multicultural beauty of South Asia. The festival brings together filmmakers, actors, and cinephiles from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the South Asian diaspora, providing a platform for voices and narratives that are often underrepresented in mainstream cinema.

While We Watched (India, 2022)

The Festival’s Opening Night puts the spotlight on freedom with the riveting and essential film, While We Watched (India, 2022), directed by 3rd i alum Vinay Shukla (An Insignificant Man), an award-winning documentary and not to be missed. 

A scene from the film 'While We Watched'
A scene from the film ‘While We Watched’ (image courtesy: 3rd i Films)

The film smartly captures the state of contemporary news media with a powerful character study of Ravish Kumar, prime-time Indian TV news anchor and journalist, and his unshakable quest to speak the truth, to hold power to account and to persevere against the normalization of authoritarianism. Although the film is rooted in India, its depiction of how misinformation is eroding fact-based news could apply to many countries. Fast-paced, with sharp and unflinching commentary, it is essential viewing for anyone interested in how journalism and democracy are under threat. 

Director Vinay Shukla will be present for Q&A.

Agra (India/France, 2023) 

This narrative feature will make you want to fasten your seatbelt and proceed with caution. By 3rd i alum Kanu Behl (Titli), which opened to rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, audaciously explores sexual repression through vivid sexual imagery, and examines how patriarchy, Indian family dynamics, and the lack of physical space, in a country of over a billion, affects the way people live their lives. When Guru, a young call center worker, tries to move his fiancée into the family home, nothing goes as planned.

The poster for the film Agra
Poster for the film Agra (image courtesy: 3rd i Films)

The first from Pakistan to make the shortlist of the Academy Awards, Best International Feature. 

Joyland by Saim Sadiq (Pakistan, 2023)

The visually gorgeous and subversive family drama, set in the bustling megacity of Lahore, is both funny and deeply poignant. Pressured to earn his own salary, a soft-spoken house husband joins an erotic dance show, and finds himself attracted to an irrepressible trans woman. This striking feature upends traditional gender roles and identities through a story of complex expressions of love.

A picture of the lead actors in the film Joyland
A scene from Joyland (image credit: 3rd i Films)

Women Behind the Lens

Women filmmakers take the lead this year with inspiring and illuminating documentaries. The voices of women shine brightly from short-form documentaries to dramatic narratives, in genres ranging from Sci-Fi to comedy to horror. This year’s edition tackles stories of relationships, identity, and social justice.

The Golden Thread (India/Netherlands, 2022)

Director: Nishtha Jain (Gulabi Gang, Lakshmi and Me)

A poster for the film The Golden Thread
A poster for the film The Golden Thread (image courtesy: 3rd i Films)

A visually spectacular and symphonic ode to manual labor and the jute factories of West Bengal, India. Its magical long takes and beautifully composed shots fully immerse the audience into the world of the golden fiber, the world of steam and sweat, and the rhythms of the century-old machines. 

Director Nishtha Jain will be present for Q&A.

Bangla Surf Girls (Bangladesh)

Director: first-time Bangladeshi filmmaker Elizabeth D. Costa 

Three girls dressed in Indian clothes roll in the surf
In Bangladesh, three young girls join a local surf club and dream of freedom (image courtesy: 3rd i Films)

Opens in the heart of Cox’s Bazar, a beach town in Bangladesh, where we witness the transformation of young girls who join a local surf club and dream of freedom from traditional expectations. Balancing the freedom of the waves with the restrictive realities of their circumstances, the film allows us to experience the thrill and struggle of coming of age.

A Night of Knowing Nothing (India/France, 2021) 

Director: Payal Kapadia (A Cannes Film Festival winner for best documentary)

A scene from the film 'A Night Of Knowing Nothing'
A scene from the film ‘A Night Of Knowing Nothing’ (image courtesy: 3rd i Films)

A brilliant, dreamlike, poetic exploration of the political and social changes occurring in India. The story, uniquely told through a series of letters a young female student reads aloud to an absent lover, is accompanied by a variety of documentary images and an evocative music score. It’s an astonishing fragmentary work that witnesses India’s resurgent extreme nationalism.

TikTok, Boom (USA, 2021)

Director: Shalini Kantayya 

Rigorous, sharp, and exploratory, it balances a genuine interest in the TikTok community with a healthy skepticism around the security issues, global political challenges, and racial biases behind the platform. A cast of Gen Z subjects is centered, making this one of the most needed and empathic films exploring what it means to be a digital native.

A poster for the film Tik Tok Boom
A poster for the film Tik Tok Boom (image courtesy: 3rd i Films)

Tickets to individual films are $12 online, and $12 cash-only at the door, 15 minutes before a show. More information about the festival is available on our website at: www.thirdi.org

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...