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3rd i’s 14th Annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival


Nov 10-13 in San Francisco; Nov 19 in Cupertino

From art-house classics to documentaries, from innovative and experimental visions to cutting-edge Bollywood, 3rd i Films is committed to promoting diverse images of South Asians through independent film.

3rd i’s 14th Annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond (SFISAFF) launches at the New People and Castro Theaters in San Francisco from November 10th-13th. The festival’s South Bay edition unfolds a week later on November 19th, at the BlueLight Cinema in Cupertino. The five-day Festival will screen 15 programs of narrative and documentary features and shorts by independent filmmakers from South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora, including stories from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada, and the USA.

This year, 3rd i Films shines a spotlight on Voices from the Diaspora, featuring work by filmmakers living between two cultures, and negotiating multiple histories and identities. Sami Khan’s intimate and atmospheric feature KHOYA/LOST captures the story of a Canadian man who returns to India after the death of his adopted mother, seeking to unravel the mystery surrounding his adoption. The film features a haunting score by ECMA award-winners Daniel Ledwell and folk musician Jenn Grant, and stars Rupak Ginn who grew up in San Francisco. Khan will be in attendance at the screening. NY-based Naeem Mohaiemen’s immersive and brilliant doc UNITED RED ARMY, on the other hand, unravels history; part of a trilogy on radical left-wing movements, it reconstructs the hijacking of Japan Air Lines flight 472 at the hands of the Japanese Red Army in 1977, and its forced landing in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Mohaiemen’s films have screened at the Berlin Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, and MoMA NY; he will be present via skype for Q&A. Also part of the focus is UK-based Amit Gupta’s charming Woody Alan-esque comedy, ONE CRAZY THING; Ray Panthaki (recently named one of BAFTA’s Breakthrough Brits) essays the role of a former daytime TV star whose life has hit rock bottom until he meets his dream girl. There’s only one problem: How does Jay tell Hannah about the leaked sex tape which made him an internet sensation?

Continuing our mission to provide a platform for the Voices of Women and a focus on gender-related issues, 3rd i Films brings films that feature women both behind the lens and on-screen. Taking our centerpiece slot at the Castro Theatre is Leena Yadav’s PARCHED, described by lead actress Tannishtha Chatterji as ‘Sex in the Village’; Yadav combines the stark realism of Rajasthan’s hostile desert landscapes with a Bollywood exuberance to tell the tale of four ordinary women who break the bonds of tradition to unleash their repressed sensuality and dreams. The film won the Audience Award for Best Film at the most recent Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. BETWEEN THE LINES, on the other hand, makes its feminist arguments more subtly; written by Nandita Das and Divya Jagdale, and featuring superlative performances by Das and her real-life husband Subodh Maskara, the cineplay (a new genre that adapts theater for the screen) masterfully tells the tale of a lawyer couple who find themselves on opposite sides of a case on domestic abuse. Das and Maskara will be present via skype for at Q&A. And we are most excited this year to include the first animation feature ever in the 3rd i lineup, Shilpa Ranade’s magical THE WORLD OF GOOPI AND BAGHA, which premiered to great acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival. A remake of Satyajit Ray’s children’s film of the same name, Ranade’s endearing film boasts excellent musical interludes (by indie fusion band 3 Brothers and a Violin), evocative animation, and an anti-war sentiment at its heart. Ranade will be in attendance.

Mehreen Jabbar’s LALA BEGUM, a unique project that was funded by Zee TV to bring Pakistani talent to the Indian screen, is a complex and impressive drama that stars the legendary Marina Khan; two sisters meet 20 years after their estrangement, and come to terms with the colonial heritage of their haunting past. And closing out our Pakistan Spotlight, and the festival in San Francisco, is Harune Massey’s GARDAAB (THE WHIRLPOOL) – a gritty take on Romeo & Juliet. Trapped in the web of ethnic strife in the brutal underbelly of Karachi, two lovers struggle to break away from the unending cycle of violence that haunts the metropolis. Massey will be in attendance at the screening.

As always, indie narratives are aplenty including THE CALLING, a brilliant first-feature by Marathi filmmaker Aadish Keluskar, that recalls the work of Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr. Another first-feature by Babu Eshwar Prasad is a Kanada-language film, GAALIBEEJA (WINDSEED), a road film that pays homage to the likes of Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, and Abbas Kiarostami, and reflects on India’s changing landscape.

Based on the true story of a university professor who was fired on charges of homosexuality, Hansal Mehta’s ALIGARH is a powerful and nuanced film that brings together the important issues surrounding LGBTQ rights and the right to privacy in India. The film is especially relevant now given that the Penal Code 377, which criminalizes homosexuality, has been reinstituted in India since 2014. The film premiered to a standing ovation at the Busan Film Festival in 2015. Another film that shines a spotlight on the right to privacy is our Opening Night Film – Neeraj Ghaywan’s MASAAN, winner of the FIRPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. Set in the picturesque city of Varanasi, the film is astute in its social analysis, and weaves together two tales of young lovers in India caught up in the webs of caste and sexual politics.

Documentaries find a place on the program including the painterly ORIGINAL COPY by Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen – a portrait of Sheikh Rehman, the city’s last painter of film posters. The feature is preceded by the exquisite short CLOUDS IN AN EVENT CHAMBER by Ashim Ahluwalia, where the filmmaker works with acclaimed Indian painter Akbar Padamsee to recreate a lost experimental film from the 1970s. Bay Area filmmakers John Turner and Eric Christensen’s fascinating biopic KORLA also delves into the past, to discover the secret behind the identity of Korla Pandit – television pioneer and the Godfather of exotica music – and his successful racial passing through the entirety of his professional life. The film will be followed by a panel discussion around the construction of Black and Desi imaginaries in the United States.

Local shorts engage international shorts in a conversation around sex and sexuality in the program COAST TO COAST: MUMBAI TO THE MISSION, featuring films by KQED-contributor Abhi Singh and Pallavi Somusetty – both from the Bay Area, and Mumbai-based Payal Sethi, whose short film LEECHES picks up on the themes of sexual politics and women’s empowerment from other offerings in the festival. Local filmmakers will be present at the Q&A.

Ticket prices are $10/online and $13/at-the-door. Passes range in price from $40-$120. More information about the festival, including expanded program and ticketing information, will be available on our website in early October at:

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