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A Bouquet of Desi Films: Asian American Film Festival

The 27th annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival presents a host of South Asian films that range from a Bollywood blockbuster to sensitive inquiry of expatriate domestic violence, with a host of documentaries and short films thrown in. A Siliconeer report.

A scene from Dilip Mehta’s “The Forgotten Woman.”
(Above): A scene from Dilip Mehta’s “The Forgotten Woman.”

With 108 films and videos, the 27th annual San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival takes place March 12-22 and screens at the Castro Theatre and Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco; Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, and the Camera 12 Cinemas in San Jose.

The festival brings particularly good tidings for South Asians with a number of feature-length films as well as documentaries, including a slew of provocative documentaries.

In addition to Bollywood hit Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi starring Shah Rukh Khan, the film festival’s rich South Asian offerings include: Priyadarshan’s Kanchivaram ( (India | 2007 | 117 mins | 35mm | In Tamil with English subtitles); Deepa Mehta’s Heaven On Earth (Canada | 2008 | 106 mins | 35mm | In English & Punjabi with English subtitles);

A scene from Deepa Mehta’s  “Heaven on Earth.”
(Above): A scene from Deepa Mehta’s “Heaven on Earth.”

Dilip Mehta’s The Forgotten Woman, (Canada/India | 2008 | 90 mins | 35mm | In English, Bengali & Hindi with English subtitles); Sarab Neelam’s Ocean of Pearls, (USA | 2008 | 94 mins | 35mm | In English & Hindi with English subtitles); Sarba Das’s Karma Calling, (USA | 2008 | 90 mins | Video | In English & Hindi with English subtitles); Brittany Huckabee’s The Mosque in Morgantown (USA | 2009 | 75 mins | Video); and Senain Kheshgi and Geeta Patel’s Project Kashmir, (USA | 2008 | 88 mins | Video | In English, Hindi, Kashmiri & Urdu with English subtitles).

In addition there are a slew of South Asian short films including Sushrut Jain’s Andheri (USA/India | 2008 | 18 mins | Video | In English, Hindi & Marathi with English subtitles); Bornila Chatterjee’s Dida Reema Anjana (USA | 2008 | 13 mins | Video | In English & Bengali with English subtitles); and Mel Melcer’s Guns (United Kingdom | 2008 | 10 mins | Video | In English & Hindi with English subtitles)

A scene from Priyadarshan’s “Kancheevaram”
(Above): A scene from Priyadarshan’s “Kancheevaram”

Dilip Mehta’s documentary The Forgotten Woman begins where his older sister Deepa Mehta’s Water ended. While that film created a fictional story about the marginalization of widows in India, complete with professional actors and glossy sets, The Forgotten Woman turns instead to real stories, unvarnished settings and actual widows.

First-time director Sarab Singh Neelam’s award-winning Ocean of Pearls is among the first feature-length narrative films portraying the Sikh experience in North America. Its heartfelt commitment and straightforward beauty earned it a rare double-award at last year’s Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award.

Kavi Ladnier in “Karma Calling.”
(Above): Kavi Ladnier in “Karma Calling.”

In Karma Calling, brother/sister filmmaking duo Sarba and Sarthak Das pull together a talented ensemble cast in a colorful comedy about a model minority in the middle of meltdown.

Top Indian commercial filmmaker Priyadarshan returns to his South Indian roots with Kanchivaram, a combination of Bollywood flair, social commitment and film-noir grit that follows one man’s political awakening in 1940’s Tamil Nadu.

For more information, visit www.asianamericanmedia.org


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