NYIFF 2011 – Cinematic DiversityBy Lavina Melwani • Apr 30th, 2011 • Category: Cinema
NYIFF – Indian Cinema Comes to the Big Apple…
In the city of reinvention, what better way to stand out from the crowd than to reinvent yourself? As the film festivals focusing on South Asian films have multiplied in the Big Apple, the oldest and most noted showcase of them all, the MIACC Film Festival, is now known as New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) and is focusing on independent and regional films, while still being open to Bollywood blockbusters. The opening film ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ is a Disney film with Bollywood stars but imbued with the indie spirit.
“It has a new name, ” says Aroon Shivdasani, the Executive Director of Indo-American Arts Council, who founded the 11-year-old festival. “It has a new season - spring instead of winter; a new Festival Director - Aseem Chhabra is a film journalist, has been on our Selection Committee for years and is very familiar with Indian film; partnership with NYFA and Whistling Woods; a children’s afternoon; and a Tagore celebration.”
Filmi Melting Pot
As she points out, the festival adds to New York City’s diversity by presenting independent and Diaspora films, Bollywood’s foray into alternate cinema as well as the partnership between Hollywood and Bollywood. This year an intriguing development is the inclusion of many regional films in different Indian languages with subtitles in English.
Indian cinema has always been much more than just Bollywood and at The New York Indian Film Festival, which kicks off on May 4 and runs through May 8, you get to see it in its many avatars. The opening night showcases Disney’s life action film ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ at the Paris Theater, starring the real life couple Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh. The stars will walk the red carpet and this will be followed by a gala dinner at Essex House which will be attended by Indian Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, and several celebrities.
NYIFF will screen 25 feature films including 15 world and US premieres. Some of these include the US premiere of Sudhir Mishra’s crime drama ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’, starring Irrfan Khan; A ‘Decent Arrangement’ starring Shabana Azmi; ‘Raakh Redux’, which is a digitally remastered version of Aamir Khan’s early hit which won three National Film Awards.
Documentaries also get full play in the festival with ‘The Bengali Detective’, ‘Made in India’ and ‘Bhopali’ – each of which looks into very different issues. Also screened will be ‘Karma to Nirvana’, the second Film in the Holy Kitchen Series by Vikas Khanna, exploring the food sharing traditions of Hinduism.
The Indian regional cinema also gets centerstage with Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam films. For fans of Aparna Sen, there’s ‘Iti Mrinalini’ and Rituparno Ghosh buffs can look forward to ‘Nauka Dubi’ which is based on a Tagore story which will close the festival on May 8, which happens to be Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary. Closing night at Asia Society will be awards night, followed by an after-party at the Asia Society Cafe.
As NYIFF Director Aseem Chhabra puts it, “We are presenting a wonderful mix of films from India and other parts of the subcontinent as well as the Diaspora – a blend of works by young independent filmmakers and a few masters. The program represents films from Mumbai as well as other regional filmmaking centers in the subcontinent.”
Ask Shivdasani about the highlights of the festival, and how it’s different from other festivals across the US, and she points out several factors: ‘Mira Nair is our face – like Robert De Niro is for Tribeca and Robert Redford is for Sundance,” she says. “We have a diligent screening/selection committee and only screen NY premieres. We also award a special scholarship to an emerging filmmaker to attend New York Film Academy. We team up with the Department of Cinema Studies at Tisch, NYU for post screening discussions as well as for one –minute cell phone films of our festival.”
Masters and Emerging Filmmakers
This year NYIFF is teaming up with noted filmmaker Subash Ghai’s Whistling Woods International, a film institute, to showcase the award-winning shorts of student filmmakers. As Ghai says, “These graduates will be part of India’s next generation of filmmakers and have commenced their filmmaking journey with these films. I am extremely happy to see the quality of their work.”
So there you have it – a feast of Indian cinema for New York film buffs. Are mainstream Americans also getting involved with NYIFF and Indian cinema in general? Says Shivdasani, “There has been a sea change in the attitude of Americans to Indian cinema. Bollywood led the way. However, film aficionados increasingly gravitate towards our festival films; the audiences who view “foreign” films are equally comfortable reading English subtitles on Indian films as they are reading subtitles on French or Italian films.”
For a listing of movies, panel discussions and stars attending, check out New York Indian Film Festival
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