A coming of age story of a shy student who uses a family trip to an old Anglo-Indian town as an escape from his failed semester will open the 13th annual edition of the South Asian International Film Festival, Nov. 30. The five-day festival, to be held at the East Village Cinemas in lower Manhattan will screen a select combination of full-length films, shorts, and documentaries in a variety of genres.
Set in 1979, Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial feature “A Death in the Gunj”, starring an ensemble cast of Vikrant Massey, Tillotama Shome, Om Puri, Tanuja, Gulshan Devaiah, Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, and Ranvir Shorey, tells the story of Shyamal Chatterjee (Massey). At the outset, his family trip to McCluskiegunj has the makings of a perfect family holiday, but something is amiss. In the week that follows, Shyamal’s quiet unraveling is overlooked by the family revelers, until the holiday ends with an implosion.
Described as the largest film premiere destination for South Asian filmmakers in the United States, SAIFF was founded in New York City due to the lack of support for many emerging filmmakers and the overall underrepresentation of Indian cinema in a capital that is recognized by the world as the birthplace of independent filmmaking, according to the festival website. The festival is committed to exhibiting films from South Asia (i.e India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal) and within the Indian diaspora.
“Shor se Shuruaat”, an omnibus feature of mentored short films around the central theme of noise will close the festival, Dec. 4. It includes seven films from seven different directors, conveying seven different stories on the same theme. From freedom of speech getting stifled, to someone experiencing noise for the first time, to a dysfunctional world where one lives within the constraints of what is acceptable sound, to the cynical noise of this commercialized world, to the deafening silence of a death row inmate and his need for sound, to the unique relationship of people who see and hear too much, to finally the destructive noise of social media and the redemption it provides, all films tell the story of people who want to get out.
The short films have been mentored by stalwarts like Mira Nair, Shyam Benegal, Imtiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar, Nagesh Kukunoor, Sriram Raghavan and Homi Adajania. Other films to be screened include “With You For You Always”, directed by Azad Alam (HBO Short Film Competition); “Maroon”, directed by Pulkit (Feature Competition); “Lens”, directed by Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan (Spectrum); “Riff Raff”, by Pakistani director Ahmed Arif (HBO Short Film Competition); “Mantra,” directed by Nocholas Kharkongor (Feature Competition); “Veham” by Hassan Amin of Pakistan (HBO Short Film Competition); “Autohead” by Rohit Mittal (Feature Competition); “Chidiya” by Mehran Amrohi (Specturm); “Sherry” by Altamash Jaleel ( HBO Short Film Competition); “The Tiger Hunter”, an American comedy film, written and directed by Lena Khan (Feature Competition); “Chutney” by Jyothi Kapur Das (HBO Short Film Competition); “Relevations” by Vijay Jayapal (Feature Competition); “The Last Music Store” by Megha Ramaswamy (Specturm); and “Dobaara” by Bejoy Nambiar (Spectrum).
Pakistani film “Gardaab” (Whirlpool) by Harune Massey is the festival’s centerpiece film. Set in Karachi, the film is an intimate portrait of a city torn by violence.
It’s a story of the city’s inhabitants as they navigate through this violence, fighting to preserve their humanity. A gritty fast paced thriller, the film is also a tale of an unlikely romance that blossoms amidst this chaos.