Can't Miss Films at this Weekend's Inaugural South Asian Film Festival

When one discusses South Asian films, especially those from India, it often conjures up Bollywood images of swaying chorus lines, catchy music and Indian film stars. Jitin Hingorani, the director of the South Asian Film Festival in Plano, however, has a plan to show DFW that India and its geographical neighbors have much more to offer in terms of celluloid entertainment.

"Bollywood is a fantastic genre that has its place in the South Asian psyche, but we, as non-resident Indians, don't really see ourselves reflected in Bollywood films," Hingorani says. "We don't live in those mansions, we don't drive those cars and our love stories are not that formulaic. It's about time we see a bit of ourselves in our cinema."

The festival features 14 films. Some of the films are shorts, others are documentaries, and a few are feature length narratives. Each night of the festival contains a theme. The opening and closing nights each showcase a single feature film. In between, however, SAFF offers up programming for women, children, the LGBTQ community, and youth. All the films are in English and Hindi. The Hindi films are subtitled.

Most film showcases use work submitted by hungry filmmakers looking for exposure and prizes. SAFF, however, is an "invitation only" festival and Hingorani had a hand in picking all of the selections - a task that proved to be difficult for the festival founder.

"We've spent the last year traveling around the world attending film festivals where we have watched tons of South Asian films," Hingorani says. "Figuring out which 14 films would be the best fit for the DFW audience was a Herculean task." 

According to Hingorani, Dallas is the only top five media market without a film festival for South Asians. To him, this is unacceptable because the DFW area is home to around 250,000 South Asian immigrants and citizens of South Asian descent.

SAFF opens Friday and runs through Sunday night at The Angelika in Plano. While Plano doesn't seem like the most hoppin' place for festivals, Hingorani is confident that he has found the right home for his festival.

"South Asians live and work in and around Plano, and we wanted to bring the festival to their backyard, rather than making them drive to downtown Dallas," Hingorani says.  

While this is the festival's first year, Hingorani expects a successful run and is already making plans for the future. In the meantime, here are our picks for the weekend:

Brahmin Bulls

- 7 p.m. Friday The opening night film has a star-studded cast that includes Mary Steenburgen, Justin Bartha (The Hangover films) and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes). Sid, played by Ramamurthy, is an architect and a tennis enthusiast who is going through a rough time in his romantic life. When his father comes to visit him in LA, the two start rebuilding their relationship. However, when Sid's father crosses paths with a woman from his past, their new found family friendship is tested.


- 6:45 p.m. Saturday Directed by Emma Thompson and starring Gillian Anderson and David Arquette, Sold is a thriller about a young girl, kidnapped in Nepal and trafficked to India as a child prostitute. After watching the disturbing trailer, Sold seems to be the kind of film that leaves audiences emotionally drained. Bring a tissue. Hell, bring a whole box.

Rough Book

-4:30 p.m. Sunday Starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, aka "the queen of Indian independent film festivals," Rough Book is much like a narrative exposé about the Indian education system. An iron-willed teacher stirs the pot when she challenges her students to approach learning in a new light despite gaining her position from a corrupt system. This film is heavily endorsed by the Indian government and it makes its world premiere in Plano on Sunday. 

For more information about the South Asian Film Festival, go to www.dfwsaff.com.

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