Indian film industry heavyweights Taapsee Pannu, Anupam Kher, Anubhav Sinha and Neena Gupta will ALL make an “online” appearance this month at ECSA: Escapist Cinema of South Asia, a seven-weekend-long virtual film festival co-presented by sister festivals DFW SAFF and NYC SAFF. At its midway point, the weekly online series has already live streamed 16 short films and three feature films, attracted a global audience of more than 1500 cinephiles and donated hundreds of surgical masks to TIPS (Texas Indo American Physicians Society), as part of its WATCH A FILM, SAVE A LIFE charity initiative.
“We are proud to be the first major South Asian Film Festival in the U.S. to create a contiguous, seven-weekend-long, online film series,” said DFW SAFF and NYC SAFF Founder and Festivals Director Jitin Hingorani, also Principal/CEO of producing sponsor JINGO Media. “In the past month, we have screened the National Award-Winning Gujarati film HELLARO, heard Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Falu Shah perform and hosted the versatile television, screen and stage actress Lillete Dubey as a ‘virtual’ guest. Our loyal audiences have been planning their Saturday evenings around our programming, and this is exactly the kind of escapism we wished to provide global cinephiles who are either locked down or choose to shelter-in-place during the pandemic.”
The remaining three weekends in June will showcase unique, curated content, such as comedy programming, Sikh-centric films and a major tribute to Indian Bollywood icon, Rishi Kapoor. Each Saturday evening’s live stream (7 to 10 p.m. CDT) will be followed by a Zoom post-screening Q&A with actors and directors; audience members can engage by asking questions through live chat. Each evening will end with a live or taped performance by an up-and-coming artist. Screenings are FREE for lifetime members of DFW SAFF and will cost the general public $6 per block of programming (to commemorate six years of SAFF). Audience members can log in to www.onlinefest.us from anywhere in the world, create an account, pay for their screenings in advance and receive reminders leading up the live event(s).
WATCH A FILM, SAVE A LIFE: For every person who registers, the festival will donate a surgical face mask to Texas and NYC hospitals or organizations in need. The goal is to help keep our medical workers safer on the front lines. The more people who watch, the more people we will be able to protect!
JUNE HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
*June 13th – Funny Business: Comedienne Zarna Garg interviews comedian Tushar Singh, after his docu-comedy AMERICAN HASI (trailer)
*June 20th – Indian film critic Rajeev Masand interviews actor Anupam Kher after his British Sikh film THE BOY WITH THE TOPKNOT (trailer)
*June 27th – Producer & SAFF Board Member Viveck Vaswani moderates Q&A between director Anubhav Sinha and actors Neena Gupta and Taapsee Pannu, after one of Rishi Kapoor‘s last films MULK (trailer)
Despite many of the applicants being accomplished in their fields, they are finding it hard to fund their work during this pandemic. Round two grantees include artists like sitarist and teacher Abhik Mukherjee from New York, who has received a scholarship from India’s Ministry of Culture and is a member of the immensely popular Brooklyn Raga Massive. Awardee Sanjib Bhattacharya from Ohio is a globally recognized Manipuri dancer who is also an award recipient from former Indian President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Illinois arts worker and artist Tulika Ladsariya’s paintings have been written about in publications such as Elle and Time Out.
Mr. Bhavnani adds, “Despite the easing of lockdowns around the country, artists are likely to see restrictions on the ability to practice their crafts for many more months. In years to come, it will be their creativity that will help us recollect this unprecedented time. It’s so important to give them the resources now to do just that.” A full list of awardees and a link to donate to the Fund can be found on the ICF website, TheIndiaCenter.us.