Tanuj Chopra has been making films since he cut his first student project Hate Crime in the summer of 1998. Since then, his TV, film and commercial projects have taken him from California to India to NYC. In 2003, his short film, Butterfly, was shot, produced and edited in New Delhi, India. Starring Tilotama Shome (Alice from Mira Nair’s smash Monsoon Wedding), the lushly photographed love story won three best film awards in addition to screening at over 20 festivals across North America, Europe, India and Pakistan.
At 28 years old, he wrote, directed and produced his first feature film Punching at the Sun which premiered at the 2006 Sundance film festival as the first South Asian American narrative feature to be selected to the festival. The hard hitting urban tale of loss and redemption also played at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival as well as the 2006 San Francisco Asian American Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize. Punching at the Sun has screened at over 30 festivals and will be released in 2008.
Chopra’s approach to Punching at the Sun was youth driven and community oriented. The entire cast was comprised of first time performers cast from non profit youth and arts organizations like the Queens based SAYA! (South Asian Youth Action) and the New Heritage Theatre in Harlem. Upon completion of the movie, many of the teenage stars appeared at the high profile premieres in Park City, Utah and New York City for lively Q&A sessions with the audience.
Chopra holds a BA in Arts Semiotics from Brown University (1999) and is a graduate of the MFA Film Program at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the School of the Arts Dean’s Fellowship and the FOCUS Film Fellowship.
Tanuj is currently working on a new film starring Tilotama Shome and Sung Kang (The Fast and the Furious, Finishing the Game, The Motel) and also designing a summer filmmaking camp for teenagers in Queens.
Manavi, the New jersey based women’s rights organization and a partner of NJISACF, will host its 23rd Annual Community Dinner on Saturday, March 29th, 2008, 6.30 pm onwards, at Akbar Restaurant in Edison, New Jersey.
Since 1985, Manavi has been working to end all forms of violence against South Asian women living in the U.S. Through a wide variety of programs, Manavi ensures that women of South Asian descent in the U.S can exercise their fundamental right to live a life of dignity that is safe and free from violence. Manavi provides services equitably to women from all South Asian countries and does not discriminate based on national, religious or sectarian grounds.
The funds raised through the annual community dinner enable Manavi to run some of its integral programs. This year the guest speaker for the evening will be Bhairavi Desai, co-founder and Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Shamita Das Gupta, the co-founder of Manavi will talk about the early days of the organization. The evening will be capped-off with a performance by ATMA, the University of Pennsylvania’s all female South Asian music cappella group.
Why Women Count is a series of 41 x 5 minute short films made by broadcasters and producers in 41 countries focusing on the theme of empowerment – and what it means in the lives of ordinary women and men around the world. The aim of the series is to inspire, spread awareness and initiate conversation about the key role that women’s rights and gender equality play in the social, economic and political development of their countries, communities and families. The documentaries are produced by the Broadcasting for Change Network, a unique group of international broadcasters and producers founded by TVE in 1995, and committed to producing and airing programmes on women’s rights and equality worldwide.
For the 2007 series, each of the broadcasters/producers from various parts of the world in the Network have brought to us their own story on women’s empowerment – or lack of empowerment – in their own country or region. The result is a powerful series of 41 short films showing women struggling to overcome difficulties in many walks of life, all round the world. This collaborative effort provides all the Network members with access to a range of films on women’s rights they would never otherwise have produced or broadcast. This series provides the audience with an unique and thought-provoking opportunity to know about and understand the lives of women all over the world, and come to the realization that wherever and in which ever part of the world these women may be in, they experience the same kind of oppression and discrimination, and struggle to find their own solutions to deal with these.
The films from South Asia includs Mukhtiar Mai from Pakistan, Queens of Grassroots from India and Lily Counts, a film from Nepal, based on the life of Lily Thapa.
As a widow in her early thirties Lily Thapa experienced the brutality traditionally meted out to widows in Nepal. “The first people to treat me as an outcast were my own family,” she says. “There is so much injustice and oppression inflicted on a widow, that I decided to break my silence.” In 1994 Lily started Women for Human Rights (WHR), an association of widows. WHR today has branch offices in 36 of the 75 districts of Nepal. WHR campaigns against ingrained stigmatization and prejudice against Nepal’s widows, and provides education and training in income generation to help them live dignified lives.
Lily Thapa’s moving short film Born Again, contains testimonies by widows, who have been shunned by their families, and have been forced to live an isolated life by the society. Their pathos is exposed and their feelings lay bare, as it goes about analyzing the prevailing social situation. The one remarkable fact that becomes clear in the film is that the past one decade has seen a sea change in the way widows have begun breaking out the traditional role expected of them.
Are you an independent filmmaker, and want to spread the word about your next project or celebrate the success of your latest film? Do you want to recommend a South Asian indie film that you have recently watched? Is there a film you want to review? Or is there any news or trivia about a film/ filmmaker you dying to tell others? This is your chance. The NJISACF Monthly newsletter is the free-for-all platform for you.The newsletter will be circulated to all members of our extensive database. You are also free to pass this on to whoever you feel might be interested. If you want to write for the newsletter, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.