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Jinal Shah/SATimes, New York: The 8th annual South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) that concluded this week left audiences with a transformational experience. The festival celebrated cinema beyond the usual Bollywood and showcased some of the finest works of film-makers from India and its neighbors – Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Founded on the lines of film festivals like Cannes and Sundance, SAIFF prides itself on its competitions – documentary, dramatic and HBO short films.
The festival that opened Nov 9 in New York screened 12 feature films, five shorts, one documentary and one surprise screening – all competing for the jury and audience awards in their respective categories. On the closing night, winners were announced.
While ‘The Temple’ was honored with grand jury award and also the audience choice award for best narrative feature, ‘Grater Elephant’ had to settle for runner up jury award. In short films, both ‘Noise’ and ‘Good Morning’ won the jury award and ‘Kharoch’ the audience award. Karan Gour, director of the film ‘Corrode’, walked away with jury award.
The weeklong festival saw some brilliant works including India’s selection for this year’s Academy Awards, ‘Abu, Son of Adam’ (Adaminte Makan Abu).
“SAIFF is North America’s premier showcase for the best in new cinema from South Asia including India. The festival stays away from the usual Bollywood films to familiarize a global audience with other facets on Indian cinema and showcase emerging talent,” said Shilen Amin, president, SAIFF. The movies that were screened at the New York Institute of Technology auditorium dealt with bold issues and cultural taboos such as sexuality, corruption, and just obsession.
The film that won highest accolades was The Temple (Deool), directed by Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni. This Marathi film is a humorous take on a small, forgotten village called Mangrool that lies in a neglected part of Maharashtra. Bad weather and drought has taken a toll on the spirit of the people there. Nuanced with local village politics, hopes and aspirations of the youth, the film essentially depicts the irony of Indian villages. Greater Elephant is about people who haven’t found what they are looking for.
For the audience award, the viewers were given a feedback form after each film to rate the movie.
The festival also managed to bring on board internationally acclaimed film-maker Shekhar Kapur (Masoom, Bandit Queen, Elizabeth and The Four Feathers) who was also a guest at the first ever conversation series held by SAIFF on Saturday. Kapur discussed his journey to becoming a film director and from Bollywood to Hollywood.
“Big marketing invades people’s senses and makes them believe that there is nothing worthwhile beyond the films that they market. Hence films with low or no marketing budget fall out of the league,” said Kapur at the conversation highlighting the role of film festivals like SAIFF for creating unprecedented exposure for film-makers and unparalleled experiences for its audience.