NJISACF 09 Spring Fest – A Report

Last month has been a busy and eventful one. NJISACF 2009 officially kicked off with a one day Spring Festival on Saturday April 18, 2009, at the Busch Campus Center, Rutgers University, NJ, with style, verve and dazzle. Four independent feature-length films from different regions of India were screened throughout the day, and once again witnessed an audience turnout far beyond expectation.

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Something noteworthy has been happening in Indian cinema in the last decade: the number of independent regional films being made has been comparable to that of the films churned out of Bollywood. These independent films not only deal with subjects rarely addressed in Indian commercial cinema, they often gain critical recognition and coveted awards at international film festivals around the world because of their excellence and brilliance. The one-day festival on April 18, 2009, was a rare opportunity to watch some of such films.

The 4 films screened on the occasion included the revival of a lost gem, Genesis — a story about love, jealousy and betrayal starring Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri — by Mrinal Sen, who is considered to be one of the socially committed filmmakers of international fame who ushered in a new era in Indian filmmaking back in the fifties. Another recent film, Kaalbela, a love-story set in the times of Vietnam and the Bangladesh wars, was directed by Goutam Ghose, who belongs to a generation of filmmakers who are influenced by the works of artists like Mrinal Sen. Noted theater personality Chitra Palekar had her debut feature Maati Maay screened on the occasion. Maati Maay deals with the crisis a woman faces in trying to balance between her professional commitments and instinct. Lastly, Bioscope, a new film by a first-time feature filmmaker, K. M. Madhusudhanan, about the introduction of cinema in a remote village in Kerala, may well be hailed as an outstanding cinematic achievement. Directors Goutam Ghose and K. M. Madhusudhanan were present at the screening of their respective films and both participated in intimate and in-depth question and answer sessions with the audience.

Most of the films played to packed auditorium, with Kaalbela being sold out well in advance. The snaking lines outside the theater and the excitement among the audience are evidence that NJISACF has become a sensation and a much-awaited event for film-lovers who otherwise may not have had the chance to see these films ever again. People travelled from far-away Washington DC, Virginia, Connecticut and Massachussetts to watch these films.

Now its time to wait for the main event in September 2009 – the 3rd New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest, which will focuses not only on regional films from India, but on films by and about South Asians from all over the world.

Catch the updates about NJISACF 2009 regularly on www.njisacf.org.

Join Asian American Film and Theater Project’s free email subscription list and the NJISACF Facebook group.

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