BY SOPHIA PUREKAL
Special to the Examiner
Tasveer, a local grassroots film organization, is proud and excited to be preparing – for the third year in a row – its Independent South Asian Film Festival (ISAFF) which will take place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. This year’s festival has a special theme: “South Asia Captured: Social Movements and Reel Moments,” paying special recognition to the activist nature of the independent South Asian film.
Co-director Farah Nousheen says, “We decided to have a social justice theme because the initial funding for the festival came from the Social Justice Fund. Ironically, this year’s films released by South Asian filmmakers also have themes around social justice. The troubled state of the world is eliciting artists to express their distress through their art, so it is not so surprising that we were easily able to fill our programming around our theme.”
Leading up to the festival and to help raise the necessary funds, Tasveer presents the “Third Annual ISAFF Fundraiser: A Celebration of South Asian Art and Activism,” an evening program on Saturday, Aug. 26 that will recognize the South Asian artists who carry progressive messages in their creative work.
Somewhat of an heirloom from the ISAFF 2005 archives, the 2005 Academy Award-nominated short film, “The Little Terrorist” is back by popular demand. Directed by Ashvin Kumar, this tender film explores the events that transpire when a young boy mistakenly crosses to the wrong side of a heavily patrolled Indo-Pak border and is thought to be a terrorist who must be captured. What happens when his “enemies” must save him, putting themselves at risk in their community? The answer is a sensitive look into human kindness countering the weight of propriety.
Also in the program is the documentary film “Girl Song,” a piece from the traveling documentary package, Traveling Film South Asia, which will be a feature of this year’s ISAFF. “Girl Song,” directed by Vasudha Joshi, recognizes a rare persona, the noted Bengali blues singer Anjum Katyal, taking a look into her life and art. Full of dynamism on stage and in the studio, Katyal moves fans and audiences with her soulful voice and daring lyrics. The poetry she writes is fired by her commitment to sharing messages of how to live life with integrity in treacherous times, and how to keep one’s heart and mind open in a time when people are decidedly pitted against each other.
As she traces and laments the events that have caused so much division between Hindu and Muslim, Katyal also uses her music and art to try to mend the fragmented society she sees around her. Brandon McIntosh, a North Indian classical musician who has done tremendous research on the jazz and blues scene in Calcutta, will be present for a post-film discussion.
The highlight of the event is a very special live performance by comedian Hari Kondabolu. A native of New York City, Kondabolu has been in Seattle for barely one year and has already made so great an impression on the city’s comedy scene that he has been awarded a set at his year’s Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival. His material is an utterly brilliant blend of anecdotes of his own second-generation South Asian upbringing with his uncanny insights into popular culture and politics.
Having started doing stand-up in high school, Kondabolu is a veteran on stage, with a presence that is supremely smart and classically funny. He has performed throughout the East Coast and now the Pacific Northwest, and, while never failing to make his audiences laugh, Kondabolu’s greatest triumphs come from opening eyes and minds to the unconscionable presence of injustice pervasive in America today. He will certainly leave his Tasveer audience moved to laughter, and quite possibly moved to action.
Also part of the evening’s allures is a “Bharatanatyam” dance choreographed and performed by Reshma Ananthakrishnan, who has trained in this classical dance in Chennai, India. The emcee of the event will be Anil Vora, a local actor and playwright who grew up in Bombay on a steady diet of Hindi films and later switched his attention to independent international films.
Tasveer presents this exceptional program, which includes appetizers and refreshments on the evening of Aug. 26 at Theatre Off Jackson in Seattle. Tickets will be $25 and are sure to sell out. All proceeds will go to support Tasveer’s third annual Independent South Asian Film Festival. For more information, visit www.tasveer.org.