The ninth annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival by 3rd i will present 16 programs featuring films from India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, Tibet, the U.S., and a special focus on Sri Lanka with filmmaker Asoka Handagama in attendance. Documentaries and indie-narratives will take center-stage and the festival’s “Saturday Night at the Castro” with Delhi Belly will take Bollywood in an unexpected direction.

South Asian Americans will shine at this year’s festival with a number of films by desi American filmmakers: NY-based Prashant Bhargava’s Patang (The Kite), which won raves from Roger Ebert and was a fest-favorite at Berlin, Tribeca, and Chicago, is about a family dueling and ultimately coming together during the spectacular kite festival in Ahmedabad.

The personal and political meet in Midwest-based Semshook, Siddharta Anand Kumar’s stunning debut feature that tells the story of Tenzin, a Tibetan artist born and raised in India, and his attempt to return to Tibet on a motorcycle.

Indie-favorite and L.A.-based Ajay Naidu makes his directorial debut Ashes, a soulful film about two brothers trying to hold on to each other through mental illness and hardcore crime.

Both Bhargava and Naidu will be attending the festival.

This year’s event will showcase four documentaries by Bay Area filmmakers, all of whom will be in attendance. Bill Bowles and Kevin Meehan’s fascinating Big in Bollywod charts the instant stardom that Hollywood actor Omi Vaidya achieved through his role in the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots.

Marin County filmmaker Dave Driver’s meditative documentary, Way of Life, follows the story of Michael Daube, a young man of modest means from small town America who finds a valuable piece of art in the garbage, sells it at auction, and builds a hospital in one of the most remote areas of India and Nepal.


Joshua Dylan Mellars’ celebratory documentary on sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan, Play Like a Lion, is a moving illustration of Khan’s description of music as “food for the soul,” seen through the eyes of his U.S.-born son, Alam Khan. Director Joshua Dylan Mellars, Alam Khan, and producer Mojib Aimaq will attend the screening.

Shireen Pasha’s What is Time? was shot in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and examines the concept of time through conversations with survivors, relief-workers, and bystanders. The film shows with Kirthi Nath’s mindful short, Metta (Loving Kindness).

As always, 3rd i’s signature local shorts program, “The Family Circus,” showcases the best desi shorts by Bay Area filmmakers, with the artists in attendance. This year’s program will feature a live neo-benshi performance by local writer/performer, and 3rd i’s own, Anuj Vaidya. This program will be followed by a party celebrating the festival filmmakers at Bollyhood Cafe (recently merged with Little Baobab) in the Mission district.

Another San Francisco-based filmmaker, Neelu Bhuman will present her short, Family in Frame, as part of a program on gender/sexuality in frame. The program also features shorts from India, Pakistan and South Africa.

Nov. 9-13. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., San Francisco, and Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco. For complete festival guide and dates and times, go to www.thirdi.org/festival.

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...