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A launchpad for Asian films

A total of 120 feature-length, short films and videos are to be showcased, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 18:47 IST

About 22 films and videos from Indian and South Asian filmmakers will feature at the 24th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) running from March 16th through the 26th at the three cities of San Francisco, San Jose and Berkley.

Festival favourite -- Water is the centrepiece presentation on March 19th at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

A total of around 120 feature-length, short films and videos including narrative, documentary, experimental, animation and music videos are to be showcased at the festival.

The festival has been a launching pad for new works from Asia, US and the Asian Diaspora filmmakers such as Ang Lee, M Night Shyamalan, Gurinder Chadha, Kayo Hatta, Mina Shum, Wong Kar-Wai, Tony Bui and Justin Lin and others.

The annual festival is the largest tryst for the Asian American film fraternity and is presented by Centre for Asian American Media, a non-profit media arts organisation.

The organisation, besides the festival, also promotes awareness about the Asian American experience via film and public television, advocacy for rise in the presence and the accuracy of the portrayals of Asian Americans in mainstream media.

Exhibition of Asian American films and videos on public television; funding to Asian American projects and filmmakers and distribution of their works to schools, universities, libraries and community groups around US are some of the other jobs performed by the organisation.

Some of the upcoming screenings in the South Asian category include Dreaming Lhasa by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam showcasing the complex tale of the lives of young Tibetan exiles, not a romantic innocence idealised by westerners, but a sophisticated experience soaked in geopolitics.

The movies juxtaposing the parallel existence of independent and commercial film sectors in India include Memories in the Mist and Parineeta.

The former by Buddhadeb Dasgupta is about family relationships and class in contemporary Kolkata.

Saddled with a corrupt boss and a status-obsessed wife (Sameera Reddy), a shy office clerk (Rahul Bose) takes refuge in memories of his childhood, spent in an idyllic seaside home later destroyed by his father’s infidelity.

The other works adorning the south Asian cinematic repertoire include Meena Nanji’s documentary titled View from A Grain of Sand about the continued brutality of women and the tedium of daily life of three Afghani women in the refugee camps of Kabul and Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province.

The New South Asian American Cinema and Tales from the Diaspora section will feature the directorial debut Punching at the Sun by Tanuj Chopra about a South Asian teen consumed by personal demons after his popular older brother is murdered in their family’s bodega post-9/11 will open the festivity in San Jose on February 24.

Also featuring is Sobhraj, by Finnish filmmaker Jan Wellman about Charles Shobraj, the psychological monster whose powers to seduce and manipulate terrorised a continent for a decade.

The other works included in the 3rd South Asian Shorts 2006 programme encompass several short films from India, South Africa, UK and the US.

The movies in this category are: Umesh Kulkarni’s Grinding Machine, Nandini Sikand’s In Whose Name, Avie Luthra’s Lucky, Dishad Husain’s Viva Liberty, Samir Patel’s Time and the Hour Run and Rafael Del Toro’s, 6 Feet in 7 minutes, Geeta Malik’s Aunty G's, Kevin B Lee’s Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity and Theresa Thanjan’s Whose Children Are These.

It’s a Mismatch

You or I; them and we; east and west; first generation Indo Americans or 2nd generation desis. Muslims and Christians. Punjabis or Gujaratis.

The list is endless. The key lies in the use and understanding of the conjunction (and/or) as well as in an individual, family or a community’s power of discretion to treat the dissimilarities in cuisine, culture, clothes and customs as points of celebration or as causes of contention and contrition.

There are no easy or fast answers to issues of distinction and many a times take lives or life times to fathom.

While at a macro scale, people around the world are seeking answers to these questions in the light of the cartoon caricature; at a micro level, couples, families, siblings, parents, children, colleagues and others seek solutions to these questions in everyday life.

Debutante director, Ajmal Zaheer Ahmad in his maiden effort -- It’s a Mismatch showcases the global issue of distinctions from the perspective of the pre- matrimonial equation between two Diaspora families.

The story of a Punjabi boy (Anubhav Anand) meeting a Gujarati girl (Nandana Sen) and the paters (Anupam Kher and Boman Imami) of the families clashing and then kissing their differences adieu has its funniest moments during the subtle and stark conflicts.

World would be a boring place, if not for these differences.

The feature also presents the maturation of the South Asian Diaspora community sans the popular stereotypes and showcases the depth of human emotions and family dynamics at play.