3rd i’s Tenth Annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (SFISAFF) continues its run at the Roxie and Castro Theaters in San Francisco. On Sunday, September 30, 3rd i Films unveils its first-ever South Bay edition of the festival featuring an afternoon of screenings at the Camera 12 in San Jose.
A larger thematic focus for SFISAFF 2012 is Bengali films from both sides of the India/Bangladesh border. From Bangladesh, director Amit Ashraf’s dynamic thriller Runaway (Udhao) depicts a rickshawalla’s mission to track down men running away from family responsibilities in their villages. Surjo Deb and Ranjan Palit’s Adda: Calcutta/Kolkata is a free-flowing, intimate portrait of the city and its people, using the Bengali phenomenon of “adda”—informal conversations between groups of people that go on for hours at a stretch—at street corners, cafes, markets and living rooms.
Punjabi voices also feature strongly at this year’s festival, and two of these entries are notable for their exploration of non-South Asian communities, bringing a universal eye to the human condition. Canadian filmmaker Angad Bhalla’s Herman’s House follows the relationship an artist forms with a man who’s been in solitary confinement for over three decades, embarking on a project to design and construct his dream home. UK-based filmmaker Avie Luthra is back with a feature-length version of his wildly popular short film, Lucky. Filmed in Zulu and Hindi this story of an unusual alliance between a South African boy and elderly Indian woman highlights issues of family, race and friendship in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Alms For A Blind Horse won the Best Director, National Award for first-time Helmer Gurvinder Singh. It is deeply rooted in Punjabi culture and is the first Punjabi-language film to make the festival circuit. The screening is also a tribute to Indian master Mani Kaul (executive producer), one of the architects of India’s parallel cinema movement in the 1970s, who passed away in 2011.
As always, this year’s festival gives audiences an opportunity to experience the best up and coming talent from the South Asian diaspora, with two films from first-time directors that have made a splash on the international film festival circuit. Nirpal Bhogal’s stylish urban thriller, Sket. The film boasts a rousing hip-hop soundtrack and follows a gang of young girls who exact revenge on abusive men in East London’s housing estates. NY-based filmmaker Musa Syeed’s Valley Of Saints, is about political, ecological and romantic awakenings intermingle in this lyrical neorealist feature debut set in the Kashmir Valley.
Documentary films make a strong showing at this year’s festival. Nisha Pahuja’s, The World Before Her, examines two worlds at odds with another – the world of beauty pageants and the world of Hindu-fundamentalist camps for women. Nishtha Jain’s Family Album is set in Kolkata, attempts to gain some insights into our notions of family as mediated through personal photographs in private collections. Decoding Deepak, has filmmaker and journalist Gotham Chopra following his father and spiritual icon Deepak Chopra over a year, separating the man from the myth with a raw honesty only a son can have.
SFISAFF’s foray into the South Bay features a pair of screenings on Sunday, September 30. The afternoon begins with a family matinee screening of Suseendiran’s comedy of errors Azhagarswamyin Kudhirai (Azhagarswamy’s Horse). This is followed by a reprise of last year’s opening night film Big In Bollywood by duo Bill Bowles and Kenny Meehan which charts the rise of Hollywood-based actor Omi Vaidya in Bollywood following the release of blockbuster 3 Idiots.n
September 19 – 23. Castro Theatre. 429 Castro Street, San Francisco. Roxie Theater. 3117 16th Street, San Francisco. Camera 12. 201 South Second Street, San Jose. Early bird $10. General $12. www.thirdi.org/festival.