This weekend, cinema lovers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will finally have a compelling and contemporary South Asian film festival of their own.
“There’s been a tremendous appetite for this type of festival for many years and the wait is now over,” says Jitin Hingorani, the enterprising 38-year old director of the DFW South Asian Film Festival, which begins Friday evening at the Angelika Film Center in Plano. “Discerning audiences in North Texas can finally enjoy and be enlightened by path-breaking films that explore topics affecting them and other South Asians around the world.”
After years in New York City working with the New York Indian Film Festival, Hingorani gamely decided to set up his PR firm JINGO Media in Texas as well. During his transition, the avid cinephile discovered a lack of independent, socially conscious South Asian films available to Dallas audiences. “Bollywood films offer a fantastic glimpse into the culture but they can also be very formulaic and superficial,” says Hingorani. Independent filmmakers and audiences echo these sentiments while recognizing that commercial South Asian cinema tends to lacks incisive, artistic exploration of pressing social issues. Hingorani understood that many in the diaspora found it difficult to relate to these types of films.
Prompted by his entrepreneurial spirit and his desire to contribute something exciting to the community, Hingorani assembled a dynamic 18-person advisory board consisting of various professionals in the industry. He then began to travel the world in search of films that were both winning audience awards and tackling taboo topics that South Asian cinema often avoids. After a challenging year of planning and sourcing, the team carefully curated a selection of 14 films to be shown during the three-day festival. “We expect close to 1,500 attendees over the weekend,” says Hingorani. He adds that close to 30 percent of festival guests will likely be non-South Asian. The numbers are certainly promising, a definitive sign of multicultural maturation as North Texas becomes increasingly “global” in its arts and culture.
There are several remarkable aspects of this year’s program. Saturday’s glamorous after-party will also serve as a fundraiser for the Emma Thompson production Sold, the story of a young Nepalese girl who finds herself a victim of human trafficking. You can also expect to mingle with the film’s Academy Award winning director Jeffrey D. Brown and Mumbai producer Vivek Vaswani (who launched Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s career), both of whom will be in attendance.
The sheer depth and diversity of the films on display at this new festival also stand out, with movies showcasing issues ranging from the Indian education system to LGBT rights to race relations. Here are some of the best films showing this weekend, divided by a few of the genres represented at the festival. For the full lineup and schedule, go here.
Fire in the Blood: A powerful film showing how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs in Africa and many other countries in the years after 1996—causing 10 million or more unnecessary deaths—and the improbable group of people who decided to fight back against what has been called “the Crime of the Century.”
Shorts and Documentaries
Katiyabaaz (TEXAS PREMIERE): A commentary on the energy crisis in modern India resulting in stunted growth among families. This film explores alternatives to energy dependence by providing families low-cost energy solutions. Partnered with Milaap, a crowd funded micro-lending platform with a large focus on energy, you will enter into a world where so many are living without power.
The World of Goopi and Bagha: Gifted by the Children’s Film Society of India, this is the only animated feature in the festival. Goopi and Bagha, both musicians, have been expelled from their respective villages. As fate would have it, they bump into each other in the woods and through their travels, we learn how the power of music can unite us all.
Rough Book (WORLD PREMIERE): A deeper look at the Indian education system and how one renegade teacher decides to shakes things up. A special Q&A with the director and cast members will follow. One interesting tidbit: Rough Book was seen by the Minister of Education in India and she was so impressed by this film, she decided to make it tax free for audiences in the country.