By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
The 10th Annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival (SSAFF), opening on October 15th, showcases Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), an island country near southeast India.
The Tasveer organization, parent organization of the SSAFF, chose Sri Lanka to showcase for several reasons, according to Dr. Alka Kurian, co-director of the Festival. The Festival wanted to “acknowledge the strides that the country’s film industry has made over the years.” Other agendas included the recognition of “alternative cinematic narratives, themes, and genres as the country emerges from the thirty-year civil war,” and “ the tremendous contribution of the filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage to Sri Lankan cinema.”
Finally, the Festival wished to “Give voice to new and emerging voices in South Asian cinema that tends to be dominated by countries such as India and to some extent Pakistan.”
“We received an inordinate number of very good films this year,” Dr. Kurian continues, which testifies not only to the democratization of the filmmaking process in the region thanks to technology, but also to a growing number of people who use the medium of film as a means to bring social awareness and change. Because of tremendous support from our partners, we have been able to reach out to a wider set of audiences in Seattle and the greater Seattle area, including cities (such as Bellevue and Redmond) that we had not included in our previous festivals… With the number of films and spread of the festival over the number of days, we have become the biggest South Asian Film Festival in the USA.”
Several filmmakers are scheduled to appear in person alongside their work. Dr. Kurian praises “ Prasanna Vithanage for his historical and political insight into Sri Lankan film industry, Hemal Trivedi for the unique insights she will bring on being a female filmmaker making political films in potentially dangerous situations, and Sanjay Kak: For taking his camera to inaccessible places and bringing stories of unseen people, victims of brutal state persecution.”
In addition to films and filmmaker presentations, the Festival also hosts a symposium on “Human Rights and the Politics of Filmmaking in South Asia.”
Asked for a favorite Sri Lankan film from the lineup, Dr. Kurian picked “With You, Without You,” one of several films in the festival directed by the aforementioned Prasanna Vithanage. It depicts a troubled, multifaceted relationship between an older man and a younger woman as they navigate disease, the aftereffects of war, and their two very different worlds.
Kurian also wishes to highlight one other feature, one documentary, and one short film. “For Here Or To Go?” directed by Rucha Humnabadkar, “offers a realistic portrayal of the young South Asian diaspora in the US: their personal, social, and professional hopes, struggles, successes and failures.”
The documentary “Among The Believers,” directed by Hemal Trivedi and Mohammd Ali Naqvi, “gives a unique and much needed insight into the ideological battle between secular public intellectuals of Pakistan and radical Islamists in the country.” And the short “Mister Comes Tomorrow,” directed by Shamas Nawab Siddiqui, “raises sensitive issues about love, marriage and personal accountability.” (end)
The Seattle South Asian Film Festival run from October 10th to October 25th. For more information, visit http://ssaff.tasveer.org/2015.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at email@example.com.