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The oldest South Asian Film Festival in the U.S., 3rd i’s annual programs culminate in the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (SFISAFF.) This three-day film festival, which begins Sept. 23, is the premier showcase for edgy narratives, fun indie films, and unique music documentaries that exemplify the best indie films – and there’s also a dash of Bollywood!

Part of the appeal of a film festival is our surrender to the collective experience: we walk into the theatre, sit down with everyone else and watch a movie together. In the best version of that experience, the audience becomes a single organism, a coming together of people in the spirit of discovery, a connection we make with our fellow attendees.

This year, come celebrate some amazing independent cinema from South Asia and the Diaspora, Sept. 23-25 at the Roxie and the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

Opening night launches with a lively, entertaining and playful feature:

Four Samosas 

Written and directed by Ravi Kapoor (Miss India America)

Sept. 23, 7:15 pm; Roxie Theater

Four Samosas. (photo courtesy 3rd i)

An unmotivated South Asian American rapper, along with three other first time thieves, plans a heist on a grocery store owned by his ex-girlfriend’s father, in order to steal her wedding diamonds and disrupt her pending engagement.

Director/actor Ravi Kapoor and actor Venk Potula will be present for Q&A.

Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music

Director Vivek Bald

Sept. 24, 5 p.m. Castro Theatre

A thrilling and unique mix of live performances, candid interviews and rare archival footage, Bald charts the meteoric rise of South Asian music in 1990s Britain and the decades of cultural cross-pollination and political struggle that led up to that historic moment. Some of the greatest innovative 90s artists are featured: Asian Dub Foundation, Talvin Singh, State of Bengal, Fun-Da-Mental, Anjali, DJ Ritu, Cornershop, Joi, Black Star Liner and more.

Director Vivek Bald will be present for Q&A.

Bollywood at the Castro, one of the most fun and popular events at the festival:

Dil Bole Hadippa

Sept, 24, 7:30 p.m. Castro Theatre

With smoky Rani Mukherjee, hunky Shahid Kapoor and the booty-shaking, percussive joy of Punjabi music, Anurag Singh’s feature bursts with vibrant, firecracker charm. In a village where girls don’t play cricket, Veera puts on a turban and beard and becomes Veer to fulfill her dreams and meets Rohan. And fun begins.

Filled with wonder and imagination: Shankars Fairies

Director Irfana Majumdar

Sept. 24, 3:00 p.m. Castro Theatre

Shankar’s Fairies. (photo courtesy 3rd i)

A nostalgic and insightful period piece that portrays a privileged family in Lucknow, India in the 1960s. The narrative simultaneously delves into the close bond between the young daughter of a wealthy family and their servant who shares magical stories, and the postcolonial era in which India is newly independent but still remains bound by caste and class.

Cinephiles won’t want to miss the wry, art house dark comedy: Adieu Godard 

Director Amartya Bhattacharyya

Sept. 24, 1:00 p.m. Castro Theatre

Adieu Godard. (photo courtesy 3rd i)

In a small Indian village, an old man is addicted to watching pornography with his friends. One fine day, he accidentally brings home a DVD with a Godard film inside it. Though his friends were disgusted, Ananda gets attracted to Godard’s film and gradually develops an obsession. He initiates the idea of hosting a film festival in their village where Godard’s films will be screened. The festival gets organized after a lot of drama, but what happens next is to be seen. Bhattacharyya pays homage to and draws inspiration from his favorite film maker, auteur Jean-Luc Godard and his early 1960s French New wave films.

In Search of Bengali Harlem

Directed by Vivek Bald and Alaudin Ullah

Sept. 25, 1 p.m. Roxie Theater

Peering back in time at black and brown histories and familial roots, In Search of Bengali Harlem takes us on a journey from the streets of New York to the villages of Bangladesh, transforming our understanding of the complex histories of South Asian Americans. Alaudin Ullah uncovers his parents past and discovers the extraordinary history of mid-20th century Harlem’s Bengali, African American and Puerto Rican communities – in which the likes of Malcolm X and Miles Davis shared space and broke bread with immigrants from the subcontinent.

Director Vivek Bald will be present for Q&A. (Read my review and interview here)

Animal 

Directed by Cyril Dion

Sept. 25, 3:15 p.m. Roxie Theater

Giving ear to young voices confronting the realities of our global environmental crisis and finding hope. This insightful documentary takes a fresh look at climate change and the sixth mass extinction of wildlife through the eyes of 16-year-old environmental activists, Vipulan Puvaneswaran and Bella Lack. Through their investigative journey we become more aware of how we are linked to all other species, learning that by saving them, we also save ourselves, providing the possibility of a brighter future.

Comedy features prominently in Coast to Coast: Mumbai to the Mission

Sept. 25, 2022; 5:30 p.m. Roxie Theater

3rd i’s annual signature shorts program which brings California filmmakers in conversation with filmmakers from South Asia and the Diaspora. The Voices of Women filmmakers shine brightly, taking the lead from short-form documentaries to dramatic narratives, in genres ranging from comedy to animation. This year’s edition tackles stories of relationships, identity, LGBTQ+ and social justice.

Coast to Coast” continues with a second program, free and available online Oct 6 at thirdi.org.

Tickets to individual films are $11, available only online. Program and ticketing information: thirdi.org.

Mona Shah

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,...