Tag Archives: filmfestival

CAAMfest film, Americanish

CAAMFest 2021 Celebrates Asian American Heritage

In an apt marking of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and in a year when Asian Americans have been targeted for widespread violence, The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) brings us a film festival celebrating the richness and diversity of the Asian and Asian American experience. “Now, more than ever, the power of storytelling is vital to the health and happiness of our diverse communities,” says Stephen Gong, executive director of CAAM.

Slated for May 13-23, the 11-day festival brings us a robust array of live, virtual and on-demand film screenings, continuing its trajectory of storytelling and conversation with a schedule of over 50 events, including screenings, panels, and live performances. 

“The world may have paused due to the pandemic, but our filmmakers didn’t,” says Masashi Niwano, festival and exhibitions director at CAAM. “The vibrancy and energy of this year’s programming are unmatched with our filmmakers bravely telling their unique and vital stories.”

This year, South Asian directors take center stage at the festival with provocative, bold new works. 

The powerful Closing Night film:

Americanish

Film: Americanish
Film: Americanish

Directed by Iman Zawahry 

Sunday, May 23, 5:00 p.m.

Welcome to America: Where dreams come true…ish. In Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, two career-driven sisters (Maryam and Sam) and their newly-immigrated cousin (Ameera) must navigate the consistent — and sometimes conflicting — demands of romance, culture, work, and family. Serving both as a lighthearted reimagination of and critical divergence from the classic romantic comedy, Americanish tackles and celebrates the complex intersectionality of womanhood by welcoming us into the world — with all its joys and tribulations — of these three marriage-aged women. Americanish meditates on the sometimes inevitable tension that arises between competing societal and cultural norms, or between personal obligations and ambitions, with a fresh perspective, weaving from it a story that is unconventional, funny, and heartwarming.

White Elephant 

Film: White Elephant
Film: White Elephant

Directed by Andrew Chung

On demand

Pooja is an Indian Canadian teenager trapped between two worlds and doesn’t have anyone she can rely on. She’s from a minority neighborhood and struggles to fit in her high school where everybody’s idea of fun is limited to one eatery. Pooja finds escape through movies, and fantasizes about love and along comes Trevor, a White heartthrob she instantly falls for. Her infatuation doesn’t last when conflicts arise from a clash of cultures. Undeterred from her pitfalls, Pooja manages to find renewed confidence through adversity.

This coming-of-age story deals with the angst and frustrations of high school and blends it with the immigrant experience with a 90’s flair. 

Because We Are Girls

Film: Because We Are Girls

Directed by Baljit Sangra

On demand

A heartbreaking secret emerges for an Indo-Candian family: a relative sexually abused three of the sisters for years.   

After nearly two decades of silence, we meet sisters Jeeti, Kira, and Salakshana Pooni, now adults, at the end of their court case against their abuser. Director Baljit Sangra deftly captures the emotional journey the women face not just navigating the justice system but confronting their family for standing by while the abuse happened.        

The film explores the impact of the sexual abuse of three sisters in a traditional Punjabi family and shines a light on the nuances of gendered violence and the cultural systems that reinforce and perpetuate the trauma of abuse.

Have You Forgotten Me (short accompanying Because We Are Girls)

Film: Have You Forgotten Me?
Film: Have You Forgotten Me?

Directed by Baljit Sangra

On demand

This emotionally compelling short shines a light on North American’s oldest running Sikh Temple and the struggle it represents.

With offerings for everyone from media makers to film lovers to those interested in Asian and Asian American representation, the festival brings us unique voices highlighting the intersections of community. 

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Check out the full lineup at: CAAMFest.com

General admission tickets for virtual screenings and panels range from complimentary to $15. Drive-In Experience ranges from $45-$50. 


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, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com


 

Bhageera Premieres at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival (PJIFF ) brings local flavor to the South Bay, broadcasting more than 170 films from 38 countries. From feature-length to short films, the festival will be virtually streamed from April 7-April 22. One of the unique aspects about Poppy Jasper is that it has remained a strongly community-based festival since it was founded in 2003, connecting movie buffs to filmmakers and directors. 

Mattie Scariot, the director of the PJIFF explains, “Our mission as a film festival is to change the way people see each other through film and to bridge that gap in Hollywood with women and minorities,” as various panels at this year’s festival discuss how to empower women filmmakers and herald diversity of gender and cultures into the process of filmmaking. “When we show films from around the world, that changes the dynamic and the way we see each other,” adds Scariot.

The complete PJIFF line-up includes features from across the globe including Bagheera from India, a film that draws on true events, interpreted with intense film noir style. Shot in Hindi this impactful, 20-minute short film, LOGLINE Bagheera, tells the story of a bright young leader of a Girl Scout troop in India, who is abducted by a brutal assailant. The skills that have earned her many achievement badges provide the key to her escape and scorching retribution.

Director Christopher R. Watson wanted to tell a powerful story about a modern woman which would uplift audiences. The plot centers on the sexual abuse of women, which is the most common unreported and unpunished crime in the world. So, he decided to celebrate the human spirit, by demonstrating the value of common sense, resourcefulness, and courage in the face of danger. Preeti Choudhury, the star of the movie, brought a girl-next-door naturalism to the character. When she turns out to be tough and capable, it’s not only a magnificent surprise, it’s believable. Nailing the visuals was vital and the locale–a disused shipyard on the outskirts of Mumbai and a tract of vacant land nearby—adds a deeper dimension, instrumental in expanding the script with a magnificent myriad of detail.

A wonderful way to spend the advent of spring check out The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival, as they highlight original content with different points of view, a wonderful outlet for artistic and cultural expression.

Tickets for Bagheera: https://pjiff.eventive.org/films/60132175a9fa880069fdce01

Tickets for the festival and entire line up at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival: https://pjiff.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, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at mona@indiacurrents.com


 

San Jose’s Virtual Cinequest 2021 Features Indian Origin Films

Every year around this time, the community of film lovers mingles with film creators, directors, and artists at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose downtown’s many theaters. Giving film artists and film lovers a rare opportunity to connect at nightly soirees, the fun part about attending the film festival is a chance to talk to other people about the experience.

However, Covid times call for a pivot, and though there won’t be any in-person screenings, Cinequest is coming back with a virtual edition. Cinejoy, as the online edition is being called, will run March 20-30, with more than 150 U.S. and world premiere movies featured in the Showcase lineup and several high-profile movies in the Spotlight portion. The Showcase films can be viewed anytime by passholders but the 12 Spotlight movies will be shown at specific times.

Zoom parties can never really replicate the magic of the nightly parties, where you converse with like-minded film lovers, filmmakers, and performers, but Cinejoy is attempting to create a sense of community with Zoom-hosted “screening parties.” Ticketholders can host one or join in someone else’s.

Here is a sneak peek into films of Indian origin:

Thaen  

A glorious love story about transformation and giving in to the things we want most. While on her journey to fetch medicine to treat her sick father, a woman falls in love, gets married, and hopes to lead the life she wanted. But, even the Gods of Nature disapprove. A journey that explores the unexplored and challenges what we view as “normal.”

Horse Tail 

An alcoholic bank employee from Chennai has to solve a strange mystery: why did he wake up one morning with a horse’s tail?

Ghastly Fowl 

A stark, beautifully animated short story that sheds light on what human destruction is doing to our beautiful planet.


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, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com

Bollywood and Beyond is a 3rd i Tradition

Never been to a film festival before? Due to the pandemic, they’re more accessible than ever, having pivoted to digital extravaganzas inviting people to “attend” who might not have had the chance otherwise. 

One of the premier festivals promoting diverse images of South Asians through the independent film is 3rd i’s 18th annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond (SFISAFF), offered for free Oct 23-25, 2020, as a completely virtual experience.

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. 

So, what will it mean for us to watch these independent films in the privacy of our homes, alone in our living rooms? Art. That is the reason we lend our attention to a film festival. Art gives comfort and solace, a reason to hope. In the end, art’s power is more important than where or how we see it.

India Currents writer Mona Shah in conversation with 3rd i’s Artistic Director Ivan Jaigirdar about how the festival has innovated to keep our attention rapt.

IC: What in your opinion is the silver lining to taking the festival virtual? 

Ivan Jaigirdar: 3rd i audiences are not just from the Bay Area or those who fly in, but it gives access to audiences anywhere in the world, reaching the Diaspora globally. Given Covid-19, we’re able to still hold the festival, celebrate South Asian cinema, and keep safe. Making the programs free this year allows greater access to new audiences. 

We get to interview filmmakers from abroad and reduce the carbon footprint since they are not flying in. With Zoom interviews for the Festival in their homes, it feels more accessible with the casual atmosphere.

IC: How important is the in-person experience? 

Ivan Jaigirdar: Celebrating diversity and community is the key to our Film Festival and there lies the importance of in-person experience. That’s to say, a lot of activity happens in terms of our awareness of each other and of “the other”—both within ourselves “the other,” and outside of ourselves when we experience a film together in person.  We get to dream together and have emotions about a film and then discuss it together.

IC: Do you see this as a shift, a portend of how things might change for film festivals in the future? 

Ivan Jaigirdar: As festivals are discovering the benefits of online programming, they may consider hybrid programming in the future, for example online and in theaters during a Festival, and developing 3-D virtual.

This year get thrilled by stumbling onto something new – a film, a filmmaker, a movement.

Here are a few of the notable selections from the festival to add to your watch-list.

Opening Night: 10/23 @ 7:30pm “Levity and Artivism with Fawzia Mirza” will have a post-screening live Q&A (discussing her work across theater, TV, and film, and her thoughts on feminist and queer politics in South Asia, specifically Pakistan.) with viewers submitting questions in an online chat after the screening.

The screening will be of her short films Queen Of My Dreams (2012), and I Know Her (2019) which recently made the rounds of the Cannes Film Festival. Free with registration.

Artist, SETI X

Closing Night:  10/25 @7pm Word to Your Motherland with artist SETI X will screen a short then do live performance before the LIVE Q&A  with viewers submitting questions in an online chat after it. Free with registration.

Movie: Road to Ladakh

A homage to one of the greats of Indian cinema, Irrfan Khan, Road To Ladakh. A sensual suspenseful love story revolving around an encounter between two strangers thrown together by chance into the magnificent wilderness of Ladakh. A post-screening discussion will follow with Oscar nominee, director Ashvin Kumar. Free with registration.

Movie: Lucky

Avie Luthra’s Lucky, a narrative based on a short of the same name, was nominated for an Oscar award in 2005. Delicately crafted, both in story and visual style, this beautiful, emotional tale explores the unusual alliance between an elderly Indian woman (with an irrational fear of Africans) and a South African orphan in post-Apartheid South Africa.  Luthra’s film will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker about the South Asian community and its relationship to the Black Lives Matter movement. Free with registration.

Knock, Knock, Knock, a crossword puzzle master and a young student develop a “cat and mouse” relationship in an enigmatic and engrossing psychological thriller set against the stunning locales of the hill-station Darjeeling. A post-screening discussion will follow with director Sudhansu Saria. Free with registration.

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, Facebook for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news and magazines. 

Padmavyuha: A Film Questioning Blind Faith

(Featured Image: Director, Raj Krishna, and crew on the set of Padmavyuha) 

The dedicated and outspoken religious studies Professor Shaki Ramdas is sitting in his university office one evening when he receives a mysterious phone call –  an unidentified voice tells him that a prominent journalist has gone missing, an obscure religious symbol left at the scene of disappearance. His interest piqued, Professor Ramdas follows up with the Detective on the case, Mark King, who at first is skeptical of Professor Ramdas but grows to trust him and value his inputs.

A still from the film, Padmavyuha.

Professor Ramdas works with Detective King and the unidentified voice on the telephone to decipher a series of religious puzzles, slowly uncovering a growing conspiracy designed to silence non-believers. But as the Professor digs in deeper, he finds himself descending the dark staircase of his own fractured psyche, beginning to question his own views on religion. As he deciphers the final puzzle and discovers the true villain, he will find his religious worldviews transformed – discovering a shocking, newfound purpose. 

After watching Padmavyuha and exchanging correspondence with the Director, Raj Krishna, I began to understand the importance of this film and am glad that it premiered at the International Indian Film Festival in Toronto on August 9, 2020 to a wide audience.

The purpose of this film is threefold:

  1. To introduce the central tenet of Hinduism: The dual concept of Jivatman which goes through several cycles of birth and rebirth to ultimately merge into Parmatman or the Divine source. This can be accomplished through careful observation of actions that are subject to the law of Karma.
  2. To unravel several myths about the origin, history, and core issues of Hinduism.
  3. To question the caste system. When was the “caste system”, which is linked to violent oppression by Hindus, created?

I was born a Hindu and raised in a household where my father, a highly compassionate soul was agnostic for a long time, and my mother was a staunch devotee of Lord Hanuman.  I grew up with a rich tapestry of Hindu culture, mythology, prayers, hymns, and am deeply rooted in my faith. We were taught to notice the atman in every living being and practice ahimsa or nonviolence.

India is a secular state and it was prevalent in my formative years and I think to some extent it is still a common practice for Indians of all faiths to visit temples and other places of worship including churches, mosques, and gurudwaras without restrictions. But recently there had been a rise in right-wing nationalistic sentiment in the West and it has percolated also to our motherland.

Raj Krishna implores the audience to examine the core values of their own faith and try to understand that “ negative” sentiments about faiths are intentionally tagged to many religions just to incite fear among the general population and to prevent them from living in harmony. 

The Director addresses the confusion created all over the world about the “civilizations from the East or the Orient.”  Who were the original Indians?

In fact recently, when Senator Harris accepted the Vice Presidential nomination for the United States of America, I received phone calls from educated Americans friends debating about the origin of the Indian race! Who are the original Indians? Did they come from the Middle East? Who were the Aryans and why did they create an intentional hierarchy amongst their citizens: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, and other miscellaneous outcastes?

But it is important to recognize whose prerogative is being used to theorize about other races.

I was lost in the shades of grey existing between the two versions of the truth, finding it more and more difficult to classify the current events as good or bad. The more I studied, the more shocked and confused I found myself on the core issues; is religion good? What is its true history? Who is right – the political activists protesting against the religious right, or the religious right themselves, who claim to have done far more in the name of equality than anyone else?,” interrogates Raj Krishna.

The film, Padmavyuha implores the audience to pay attention to the projected ambiguity about the Hindu faith and not fall in the trap created by right-wing nationalists. It behooves every practitioner to carefully examine the good and bad of their own religion before following anything blindly.

To learn more about what Padmavyuha means and to gain a glimpse into the history and mysterious annotations of ancient Indian civilization, watch the movie for yourself. I recommend it! 

Catch a viewing at these following local film festivals:

Silicon Valley Asian Pacific FilmFesthttps://svapfilmfest.eventive.org/films – October 2-10, 2020

Orlando Film Festivalhttps://orlandofilmfest.com/ – October 15-22, 2020

Indian Film Festival of Cincinnatihttps://iffcincy.eventive.org/films – Oct 15-Nov 1, 2020

Show Low – White Mountains Arizona Film Festivalhttps://filmfreeway.com/ShowLowFilmFestival – Oct 16-18, 2020

Oregon State International Film Festivalhttps://dasfilmfest.vhx.tv/products – October 19-25, 2020

Louisville’s International Festival of Filmhttps://louisvillefilmfestival.org/ – Nov 5-7, 2020


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

Escapist Cinema of South Asia

Sister film festivals DFW South Asian Film Festival and NYC South Asian Film Festival proudly co-present a seven-week online film series called “Escapist Cinema of South Asia” to entertain, engage and educate cinephiles around the world who are observing shelter-in-place during the pandemic.

Every Saturday night (7 to 10 p.m. CDT) from May 16th to June 27th, audiences can live stream a festival-quality South Asian film(s) that will be curated around a specific theme.

For every person who registers, we will donate a 3-layer, microfiber mask in his/her/their name to NYC or Texas hospitals in need. Watch a film, save a life!

The line-up includes globally acclaimed films like:

Hellaro – During the Emergency in India, a group of suppressed women from a village in Kutch, find someone in the desert and their lives are changed forever.

3 Days To Go – When their father passes away, four grown siblings come together with their collection of husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Together this crazy family needs to survive each other, under one roof for 3 days, before they spread their father’s ashes and part ways again.

Venus – Venus, is the witty tale of Sid, a transitioning woman, whose life takes a surprising turn when a 14-year-old boy named Ralph arrives at her door with the surprising announcement that he is her son.

For the full line-up and tickets, check the full schedule here!

 

Cinequest Film Festival 2020

This year Cinequest celebrates thirty years of elating audiences, artists, and innovators, honoring its legacy of bringing together Silicon Valley’s technologies and spirit of innovation with the arts to empower great creations – Connecting audiences, youth, artists, and innovators with these creations and with each other.

Showcasing premier films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology—the festival’s stellar reputation not only hinges on its knack for creating a powerful line-up, but also for securing distribution for many of its honored filmmakers.

With over 200 international movies from 44 countries, the festival will once again bring a world of cinema, fans and moviemakers to downtown San Jose and Redwood City. Cinequest is renowned for its many socials, soirees, and parties, fusing the community of film lovers with film creators, so do plan on attending one or more and meet directors, artists and like-minded enthusiasts.

Here is a sneak peek into films of Indian origin:

The Elder One (Moothon)

An action thriller film features a bilingual narrative in Malayalam and Hindi. The film tells the story of a 14 year old child from Lakshadweep who comes to Mumbai in search of his elder brother.

Ghost of the Golden Groves

Strange incidents occur in the heart of “Shonajhuri” forest in rural Bengal, which develops an ominous character of its own that allures and finally engulfs the protagonists.

Market

In the heart of an Indian market, the captivating portrait of lives of everyday people with everyday stories, not dignified as heroes, but nevertheless people who make the lives of each other better.

Nirmal Anand’s Puppy

An ambitious super-fit Pharma salesman is faced with a major dilemma after being diagnosed with a health condition. Shattered, he is forced to relook at his life’s priorities. He then decides to listen to his heart’s calling and embarks on a new path that he believes will make him happy. But little does he realize that this quirky pursuit of happiness is going to shake up his married life and threaten its very foundation.

Opening Night Screening and Celebration: John Pinette: You Go Now is director Bob Krakower’s loving tribute to the funny man who made us forget our troubles and laugh at our foibles. Famed comedian, Matt Donaher will lead the screening with a ten-minute live set. Tuesday, March 3, 7:15pm, California Theatre

Closing Night Screening and Celebration: The world premiere of Resistance, the powerful retelling of the story of Marcel Marceau and his incredible efforts to save lives during WWII. Sunday, March 15, 6:00pm, California Theatre

Cinequest 2020: March 3 – 15 in San Jose and Redwood City. www.cinequest.org