Call for Submission – NJISACF 2011

Fifth New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest (NJISACF), 2011,

produced by the Asian American Film and Theater Project, will showcase independent films by or about South Asian women from all over the world that challenge the stereotypical and traditional portrayal of South Asian women in mainstream commercial cinema. The two day-long festival will introduce new and established independent women film artists, from South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora. The festival will also feature filmmaker Q&As and panel discussions with participation from scholars and academics from a variety of disciplines.
Jury and Audience Choice Prizes will be awarded for excellence in various categories.

Filmmakers are invited to submit films of all genres, formats and length.

Submission form and guidelines are available at

Submission forms may also be requested by sending an email to

Submission deadline is July 16, 2010

Indian Independent Filmmakers at Cannes Film Festival, 2011

Bollywood, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, an 81-minute documentary film that celebrates the dazzling world of Hindi cinema, produced by Shekhar Kapur and UTV motion picture and directed by ‘Delhi 6’ helmer Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and documentary filmmaker Jeff, was screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival which opened on May 11, at the seaside town of the French Riviera. “The documentary is a result of a conversation I had with Thierry Fremaux atCannes last year. He spoke of the international audience’s fascination with Bollywood. But it was his inability to find a film that he could show in the main section, that urged me to make a film especially forCannes,” says Shekhar Kapur.



Besides Bollywood, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara’s Indian co-production Bengali film Chatrak (Mushroom) was India’s only other entry at the Directors’ Fortnight at the same Festival. In 2005, Jayasundara’s first feature film, The Forsaken Land – Sulanga Enu Pinisa, won the 2005 Cannes Film Festival Camera d’Or, the first Sri Lankan to do so. In a forest, near a border, a young Bengali and a European soldier attempt to get the better of one another. Here’s how the festival describes the film Chatrak: In Kolkata, Rahul, an architect who had gone off to build a career in Dubai, begins a huge construction site. He is reunited with his girlfriend, Paoli, who has long awaited his homecoming, living alone far from her family. Both set out to find Rahul’s brother, who is said to have gone mad and who lives in the forest and sleeps in the trees.

Satish Manwar’s Gabhricha Paus (Damned Rain), produced by Prashant Pethe, which had its East Coast premiere at the New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest (NJISACF) 2009, featured in Cannes Cinéphiles, Junior section. Aimed at a young audience, the film is among 8-10 movies chosen because they highlight themes or depict worlds that may provide topics of thought for young people viewing them. Cannes Cinéphiles (Cannes Film Enthusiasts) is an event organised by Cannes Cinéma and the Festival de Cannes to provide public screenings from the Official Selection, as well as films that have travelled worldwide.

Did you know…. the first Indian film to win a top award at the Cannes Film Festival was not Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (Song Of The Road). It was Neecha Nagar (Lowly City), a 1946 Hindi film directed by Chetan Anand and written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. It shared the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film (Best Film) award at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946.

And, the Winners are…. 

Natasha Mendonca

Natasha Mendonca

Jan Villa, a USA –India co-produced film, directed by Indian filmmaker Natasha Mendonca, recently won the Tiger Award for short film at the 40th International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011 held from January 26 through February 6. The film shared the top award with the Belgian film Stardust directed by Nicolas Provost and a US film Pastourelle by Nathaniel Dorsky.

Jan Villa is Mendonca’s personal account of the city ofMumbai after the monsoon floods of 2005. “The film is an associative cumulative essay. It works obtusely on the idea of Eisenstein’s dialectical montage. It is about Mumbai as a city that is my home and about my personal home and understanding about family structures. In the film, the floods serve as a metaphor for destruction, decay and neglect”, says Mendonca about her film.

Biju viswanath

Biju viswanath

Held annually each spring, the two-day Mexico International Film Festival (May 20 and 21, 2011) screened around 50 films (features, shorts and documentaries). An important destination event for film lovers, it is founded on the premise that the language of film is universal and a dynamic force in bridging cultural understanding. It gave its Golden Palm to the filmmaker from Kerala, Biju Viswanath, for his English film, Viola. Biju’s earlier feature film Mahotsav (Grand Festival) was the closing night film at the first New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest (NJISACF) in 2007.

Mexico’s Golden Palm also went to Indian documentaries, Burma In Peace (directed by Arun Sharma), You are Not Forgotten (directed by Samrat Chakravarty) and Made in India (directed by Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha).

Anjan Das

Anjan Das

Banshiwala, a Bengali feature film based on a story by Shirshendu Mukhopadhaay and directed by Anjan Das, has bagged the Bronze Palm Award at the same  Festival. According to the festival organizers, the film has “demonstrated excellent and outstanding film-making and is deserving of special recognition.”

After winning a special mention at Venicelast year, Amit Dutta returns to the prestigious European festival with his feature film Nainsukh. The film is based on the life of 18th-century Indian painter Nainsukh of Guler. Amit’s first feature film (an anthology of three short stories) Man’s woman and other stories had won a special mention at the festival last year.

Nainsukh will be screened in the Horizons section of the festival.

A 10-year old Dalit girl from India is the director of  Dhanwarlo O’ Avva (A Grandma in Dharwar). In her movie, made in 2010, the young girl, who comes from a family in rural India, follows her 80-year old grandmother as she engages in ecological farming. The film was screened at the 7th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival 2011 (The International Association of Women in Radio and Television).

Tagore Stories on Film 


rabindranath tagore

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in association with the National Film Development Corporation of Indiahas released, a special DVD pack to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore on May 7th, Tagore’s 150th birthday. “Tagore Stories on Film” is a compilation of five films made in the past each using a different Tagore story directed by known names, and the sixth is a bonus DVD on Tagore’s life. The five feature films in the pack are: Tapan Sinha’s Khudito Pashan (Hungry Stones), 1960, in Bengali; Satyajit Ray’s Teen Kanya (Three Daughters), 1961, in Bengali, based on three of Tagore’s stories, The Post Master, Monihara and Samapti; Hemen Gupta’s  Kabuliwala, 1961, in Hindi; Satyajit Ray’s Ghare Bhaire (Home and the World) 1984; Kumar Shahani’s Char Adhyay (Four Chapters), 1997,  in Hindi, based on Tagore’s novella of the same name.

The sixth DVD has two documentaries on Tagore’s life, one made by Satyajit Ray in 1961 and the other, the silent film Natir Puja, a compilation of footage directed by Rabindranath Tagore himself, shot on the occasion of his 70th birth anniversary.Tagore also played an important role init.


Girish Kasaravalli

Girish Kasaravalli

The master filmmaker from India, was introduced to the American east coast audience by the New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest in 2009 and 2010 through the screenings of Gulabi Talkies in 2009 and Nayi Neralu (The Shadow of the Dog) in 2010.

Now the acclaimed film critic, Pradip Biswas, has published two books on those films. The first one is : Girish and Gulabi Talkies (Arsenal, Kolkata), and the second one The Shadow of the Dog: A Critique (Dasgupta & Company, Kolkata).

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema, published in 2010, is the first authorized biography of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award winner filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan who was hailed by the late Satyajit Ray as India’s best. Adoor was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award at the New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest in 2009 where his last film, Oru Pennum Rantaanum (A Climate for Crime), also had its North American premiere. A reviewer in the Hindustan Times wrote, “Writer Gautaman Bhaskaran traces the ebbs and flows of the life of this enigmatic director. From his birth during the Quit India Movement to his lonely childhood at his uncles’ house; from life at Gandhigram, where Adoor studied economics and politics, to his days and nights at the Pune Film Institute; and from his first film, Swayamvaram (One’s Own Choice), to his latest, Oru Pennum Rantaanum (A Climate for Crime), Bhaskaran’s lucid narrative tracks the twists and turns of Gopalakrishnan’s life, finding an uncommon man and a rare auteur”. The book is a must-read for Adoor fans and film enthusiasts from all over the world.


Sneak Peek 3



Born in 1962, Prasanna Vithanage’s opus of five previous films has made him one of Sri Lanka ‘s leading filmmakers with a worldwide critical and popular reputation. He began his career in the 1980’s as a theatre director. He translated into Sinhala and directed Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man in 1986 and Dario Fo’s Raspberries and Trumpets in 1991, before setting out as a filmmaker in 1992.  He returned to his theatrical roots in 2006 when he wrote, directed and produced two hugely popular Sinhala one act plays Horu Samaga Heluwen which ran to nearly 150 performances islandwide. Vithanage also produced Uberto Pasolini’s Machan, the international co-production, which debuted at the Venice International Film Festival in Summer 2008.

Mr. Vithanage will be present at the festival.

DEATH ON A FULL MOON DAY (Pura Handa Kaluwara)

Full Moon Pic for Bioscope
Language: Sinhala
Running time: 74 mins Starring: Joe Abeywickrama, Priyanka Samaraweera, Linton Semage

Considered to be a modern day classic of Sinhalese Cinema, The film deals with the brutal war between the Sri Lankan state and the Tamils living in the North of the Island. When Vannihamy (Joe Abeywickrama) is presented by the army with the remains of his son, the the old man refuses to sign the compensation papers, and insists that his son is still alive. Influenced by Satyajit Ray, this impassioned and impartial neo-realist film uses a spare style and little music, focusing instead on the excellent performances, and the pathos emanating from Vithanage’s script.

The Sinhalese government and military, fearing the film would hamper the army’s recruitment of rural youth and focus public attention on social and political problems in Sri Lanka, suspended its screening indefinitely. Vithanage appealed to the courts. The Sri Lanka Supreme Court eventually directed the government to lift the ban and awarded the director compensation and damages.

Pura Handa Kaluwara has won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix Golden Unicorn for Best Feature Film at the Amiens International Film Festival, the International Film Critics Federation Award at the Fribourg (Switzerland) International Film Festival, and the Silver Screen Award for Best Asian Film at the Singapore International Film Festival in 1999.

Akasa Kusum Nimmi posterFLOWERS OF THE SKY (Akasa Kusum)
Running time:90 minutes
Sri Lanka, 2008
Cast: Dilhani Ekanayake, Kaushalaya Fernando, Malini Fonseka, Nimmi Harasgama

A mother’s search for a daughter she has never met.
Sandhya Rani (Malini Fonseka), an ageing film star, was once the darling of the silver screen. Having lost fame and fortune in a changing world, she now lives quietly in obscurity. She ekes out a living by renting out a room in her home to the film and television stars of today to satisfy their illicit sexual desires. The popular young film star, Shalika (Dilhani Ekanayake), uses this room to carry on an affair with a young actor. When Shalika’s infidelity is unmasked by her husband, the scandal and its publicity forces Rani into the limelight again. In the spotlight once again, Rani is suddenly forced to come to terms with a dark secret of her past – a secret she thought she had buried forever. As she confronts the demons of her past, she journeys in search of a truth she abandoned long ago.

Silver Peacock Award (Best Actress), Indian 39th International Film Festival (2008)
Jury Special Mention At Vesoul Asian Film Festival (2009)
Best Asian Film (Netpac) Award – Granada Cines
Del Sur Film Festival

Sneak Peek 2

KARMA CALLINGkarma calling
Directed by Sarba Das, 2008
Running time: 90min
Hindi and English

AUDIENCE AWARD WINNER Los Angeles Asian American Film Festival, May 2009

When karma calls, you can’t hang up.

What happens when a bunch of hapless Hindus from Hoboken get mixed up with an underworld don with connections to an Indian call center? And what happens when a good Jersey girl falls for a smooth operator thousands of miles away? For one thing, the phone keeps ringing.
Meet the Raj family. Deep in denial about its creeping credit card debt, dodging collection notices and phone calls. When eldest daughter Sonal finally picks up the phone, she meets a call center operator like no other, Rob Roy. Little does she know that he’s oceans away. Her brother Shyam, a college drop out, is too busy dreaming of becoming the next Dr. Dre (peddling his hip-hop album Hapa Means Weed in Japanese), to notice the bills piling up. But romance is in the air for him too, in the form of Radha, a village girl from India, arriving in America to marry a Dollar Store mogul. As for the youngest daughter Jamuna, well, she just wants a Bat Mitzvah. And another bag of Doritos.
Add to this mix Mausi, a chai-fueled Mary Poppins fresh from India, hell bent on getting this meat-eating, energy-wasting, spendthrift family in line. Little does she know that the Gods have it all figured out.

Narrated by award-winning actor Tony Sirico (aka “Paulie Walnuts” of The Sopranos), Karma Calling is a snapshot of our hyper-globalized world through the eyes of a Garden state family just trying to get by. It’s a quintessential American tale about unlikely alliances, outsourcing, and outwitting. And at its heart, it is the story of a family learning to live together.

Directed by Girish Kasaravalli, 2008
Story by well-known feminist writer Vaidehi
Cast: Umashree, K.G. Krishna Murthy, M.D. Pallavi, Poornima Mohan, Ashok Sandip
Running time: 122 minutes

Best Film in Indian Competition and best Actress in Indian Competition at Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema, 2008

Best film, best screenplay, best actress at Karnataka State Annual Film Awards, 2009

Women in an Indian village discover that the love of a good story crosses many boundaries in this drama from Girish Kasaravalli. It is 1999 in a coastal town near Kundapura, and Gulabi, the local midwife, has had a hard life – she’s one of the only Muslims in a primarily Hindu community, and her husband Musa has left her to take another wife. Gulabi loves nothing more than a good movie, and she’s hesitant to leave a picture midway, through when she’s summoned to help a local woman give birth. Gulabi grudgingly assists with the delivery, and the grateful family presents her lavish gift – a color television, the first in the village, and a satellite dish to go with it. Given her faith and her marital troubles, Gulabi is something of an outcast in town, but when word gets around about her television, a handful of women from the neighborhood begin stopping to watch soap operas with her (though some are content to just peek though the windows at her new set). One of Gulabi’s new friends is Netru, who has husband troubles of her own, and the two women bond over their shared troubled and love of the daily serials. But with India and Pakistan at war, tensions between Muslims and Hindus reach a new high, and when Netru disappears, many accuse Gulabi of foul play.

Sneak Peek 1

7 DAYS IN SLOW MOTION7 days in slow motion copy
Directed by Umakanth Thumrugoti, 2009
Running time: 101 min
Hindi and English, India
Cast: Teja, Kunal Sharma, Shiva Varma, Rajeshwari Sachdev-Badola, Ayesha Jaleel, Vivek Mushran

Set in middle-class India, 7 Days in Slow Motion marks the comical yet thoughtful journey of a 6th grader Ravi and his friends whose lives change when they chance upon a camera of a visiting American tourist. Their insatiable love for movies push them into a film-making mission of their own, but their path is riddled with problems: they only have 7 days to make the film as their final school exams begin in 7 days.
Ravi uses creative ways to keep his friends involved in the project during the stressful exam season. But his movie-making project accidentally captures some darker moments of his friends’ and families’ lives which get revealed in a party where everyone suddenly sees on the screen who they are and what they represent.
7 Days in Slow Motion in a subtle way, shows a kid’s rebellion against a system where there is a lot of pressure to succeed academically. It is a beautifully pictured comedy of errors about a film-making project by children, where adults see the truth through a child’s eyes and his ‘borrowed’ camera.

Directed by Saqib Mausoof, 2008
Narrative Short, 42 minutes
Urdu-English, US-Pakistan
Director: Saqib Mausoof
Cast: Salim Iqbal, Angeline Malik, Munawar Saeed, Ayesha Toor

Kala Pul is named after a bridge in Karachi which connects the affluent parts of the city and the lower income areas.

It is a dark journey into the heart of Karachi’s militancy by the protagonist, Arsalan, who returns to this gritty megalopolis after 12 years to investigate the violent death of his brother at the hands of religious fundamentalists. On his arrival in Karachi, Arsalan finds himself estranged from his rancorous family, in which his anglicized father is at odds with his devoutly militant younger brother. Arsalan has to navigate these diverging and conflicting paths to discover his dead brother’s past and Karachi’s future.
The plot uses the bridge as a metaphor providing a thriller ride between two completely different worlds – the hip side of Karachi and its disenfranchised youth growing up in the “Kalashnikov culture”.

NJISACF ’09 Dates Announced


NJISACF 2009 dates have been finalized now

Date: October 9 through October 11, 2009

Venue: Busch Campus Center, Piscataway, Rutgers University, New Jersey

Gala Opening on October 9 2009.

Spotlight on films from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan

The best of South Asian Independent films from India, Bangladesh, UK and North America

Filmmaker Lounge, dialogs with filmmakers, history of South Asian Independent film making through photographs.


Interview of the Month – KM Madhusudhanan

In the year 1906, villagers at Thrissur Pooram in Kerala, witnessed something that was simply unbelievable; 00_Home_Madhuon a flickering white sheet stretched across the wall, an image of a train entering the platform. This scene was breathtaking for them as well the Frenchman who showed it. The villagers could not believe what they saw, thinking it to be the work of evil power. This was the work of man– the arrival of cinema.

The fascination with cinema and images is what director K M Madhusudhanan has portrayed with use of stunning, poetic and dream like images in his first feature film– Bioscope. A fine painter, graphic artist and internationally acclaimed short film maker , the director was here in New Jersey to support the Spring festival of New Jersey Independent South Asian Cinefest. Here is an interview of KM Madhusudhanan by NJISACF staff Neha Mahajan.

NM: You are a graphic artist, painter and internationally acclaimed short filmmaker. How did you end up making films. What genre does it best belong to?

KM: Painting and cinema are connected. I see my film making as part of my art practice. My earlier works of graphics, lithographs, paintings and drawings dealt with dreams, history and memory. I tried and experimented all this in different mediums. So explored film making also. In a way without leaving painting I took up another art form and started doing both painting and cinema. Cinema is an extension of my paintings.

I have been drawing since my early childhood. The only difference is the narrative aspect. I love to tell stories through images. In painting one listens to a lot of stories encompassed in a bottle, or an apple or any other object. That gets a little restrictive, you really can’t go across a certain limit. But in cinema you are able to tell stories through visual images, and that too demands precision just like paintings. This helps one to reach good cinema.

As I said earlier there’s one thing that I have consistently done since childhood and that’s drawing. For my films too, I reach a concept through drawing. I can communicate through my drawings very well. So I basically rely on my drawings for cinema. I use these drawings while scripting and they in a way become my reference while I shoot.

Also attitude to paintings have changed. There are many a painter there who have successfully created images using cinema and paintings. Paintings have an eye to cinema.

Bioscope_pic_2NM: Do experimental movies get financial support and returns?

KM: Commercial success is something that money buys. When you want to put your work up for commercial success, people try and change it. Like producers would want some elements changed to make it commercially more viable. You have to compromise on your art. I am not willing to do that. I don’t want to alter my work to get audience. Creator gets money for his own work, Just like my paintings, I am 100% responsible for the cinema that I create.

As far as finances are concerned, now things are changing. Like NFDC helped finance my movie Bioscope. People do watch these movies, they will always create an imprint on your mind. Like Robert Bresson, who was a practicing painter until 40 years of age. No film can match up to his ‘Money’. If one sees ‘Money’, it will take years to erase it from one’s memory. It is like reading Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov.

NM: Will you make a commercially viable movie?

KM: We have had people like MF Hussain and Julian Schnabel making films, but their films get commercial somewhere. I am interested in my films being seen by wider audiences. I am not interested in altering my films to achieve it. I am happy to know that artists and film makers such as Schnabel are being appreciated by wider audiences.

For me films are my own ideas for which I use my own stories. And I am sure people will see it no matter what. When I see audiences for my films like Self Portrait or Bioscope, the shows become house full. There is audience everywhere, its a filmmakers duty to find them. Cinema has no language so it can adept well anywhere.

NM: Do experimental cinema get lost in the humdrum of popular cinema?

KM: Your question, I have partly answered in the earlier answer. Popular cinema is what they call Bollywood or Tollywood. These films are made with big budgets and superstars. You’ll find the same feel to movies. Repetitive narrative, same colors, sound and music. All these merely represent financial gains. They basically try and use the same formula that was successful in the market. This is just the kind of investment that they want back. They are all stuck up with a formula for success. They spend a lot of money and then they want that money back.

The point is, no matter what the budget, filmmaking does require a lot of money.

NM: Your works were honored by MOMA. Please tell us about that.

KM: My two movies were selected at MOMA, Self Portrait 2002 and History Is A Silent Film.2006.

Before making Self Portrait, I was seriously studying visual images. This story is about a photographer whom I saw on the streets of Delhi. I met him in Chandni Chowk. He had this old camera and would click pictures of people on paper negatives. The shots are very shallow. So he doesn’t know anything about anything else. This is the backdrop of US bombings. The technology is outdated and the man is without job. His close friend a policeman gives him the job of taking FIR photographs. Slowly his room is filled with pictures of the dead.

One day during a communal riot, his friend takes him to the crime scene. He takes the photo of a dead man and when he develops it he sees his portrait in it. The film basically deals with the inner menaing of visual images. What we see and what we know about images.

The film was well appreciated in MOMA, it also got an international award for best film from Greece. It has been to several other festivals.

In History Is A Silent Film, I have dealt with history through my medium of cinema. It is about disappearance as a historical motif. For many years I have been researching the history of silent films in India. If you look at the films and lives of people like Dada Saheb Phalke who single handedly started Indian Film industry without compromising the artistic values. There are so many people like them but they are getting erased from the history.

NM: What next after Bioscope?

KM: I plan a three part triology for Bioscope. Not exactly trilogy but an extension yet individual movies. The second part will be a atory about father and son who want to make an indegenous machine – a magic lamp. They depict Hindu mythological stories about life and how all that comes true.

The third part will be a contemporary Buddhist story of a person who is trying to make cinema.