BY MIJAIL BENITEZ
Tasveer kicked-off their second annual Independent South Asian Film Festival (ISAFF) at the Seattle Art Museum last month with their signature party style – an eclectic mix of DJ music, short films, stand-up comedy and dance performances.
The festival launch party was a prelude to the diverse selection of films in Tasveer’s second annual film festival, which runs Sept. 14 – 18 at the Broadway Performance Hall. The fun-filled party also brought up many serious issues that are relevant in South Asia today, including the relations between Pakistan and India, American businesses outsourcing to South Asia and how Eastern and Western cultures can exist in harmony.
The ISAFF uses “film as a greater vehicle of understanding,” according to Tasveer Executive Director Farah Nousheen. Tasveer, a nonprofit that promotes South Asian cinema, offers events year-round, though producing the ISAAF is at the cornerstone of their mission. Nousheen emphasizes that their organizational goals go beyond just presenting films for entertainment. She says, “We are a community that explores the culture, history, politics and the people of South Asia through independent film.”
The film festival started two years ago when Nousheen and co-founder Rita Meher were flying to San Francisco for a South Asian Film Festival. They realized then that Seattle was ready for a full South Asian film festival of its very own.
The two had planned on partnering with the Northwest Asian American Film Festival but realized they had different needs, especially considering that much of South Asian cinema is made on 35 millimeter film versus digital video, the only format NWAAFF has shown in recent years.
Last year, Tasveer focused the ISAFF primarily on India and Pakistan, with the theme, “One South Asia: Uncensored and Uncut.” Nousheen explained that there were many meanings behind this theme, from the hostility of the “cut” of India and Pakistan, to the censorship issues in the traditional ideals of South Asia.
However, this year they have expanded to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and developed the theme, “Pushing the edges: South Asia in a new frame.” Nousheen explains that this means, “There is more to South Asia than you think.”
Tasveer purposefully produced a film festival that is gender balanced. Nousheen says that there are few female filmmakers in South Asia, so it is a very rare to have a South Asian film festival with 50 percent of the films coming from women. Those films include “Wind Bird,” “White Noise” and “Highway Courtesans,” among others.
To the new ISAFF audience-goer, Nousheen highlights a couple of programs at this year’s ISAFF, though she is quick to note that she has an appreciation for all the films in the schedule line-up:
“Special Program: Experimenta India!” – These short experimental Indian films from 1960s to 2005 were shipped from the archives of the film divisions of India. These short films are nearly impossible to see anywhere else. Thursday, Sept. 15 at 9 p.m.
“Forum: Globalization, Outsourcing, and South Asia, followed by short film “Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night” – As the ISAFF is not limited to film, this forum talks about the life of a call center girl. Following the forum and short film is a documentation of the world social forum of 2004 in Mumbai, called, “Work In Progress, World Social Forum 2004.” Sunday, Sept. 18 at 12 p.m.
For full schedule, see www.tasveer.org.