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WAITING by Anu Menon
WAITING by Anu Menon

The 11th annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival slated for October 14 to 23, 2016 will screen 23 feature films and 22 shorts from nine countries, plus feature a landmark community symposium about film censorship in South Asia and topical film programs centered on youth, sexual minorities, and mental health.

The Opening Night Gala at Seattle Art Museum kicks off the eleven-day Festival on Friday, October 14, featuring 2016 Bangladeshi drama AYNABAJI, a dark and engrossing urban thriller. The film’s director Amitabh Chowdhury and celebrated Bangladeshi actor Chanchal Chowdhury are expected to attend.

On Tuesday, October 18, a diverse group of panelists moderated by Dr. Alka Kurian and including filmmakers Mostofa Farooki, Shailaja Padindala, Andy Schocken, Chanchal Chowdhury, and Varun Tandon will weigh in at Symposium: Race, Sexuality and Censorship: Film, Art and Activism in India and Beyond at the University of Washington Thompson Hall, presented in collaboration with the UW’s South Asia Center.

At the Centerpiece Gala at Seattle Asian Art Museum on Thursday, October 20, SSAFF welcomes leading-edge Bangladeshi director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki with his acclaimed comedy ANT STORY, a wry and fantastical comedy.

The Festival’s Closing Awards and Reception in Renton on Sunday, October 23 features WAITING, a charming tale of an unlikely friendship by Indian director Anu Menon and featuring South Asian superstars of the silver screen Kalki Koechlin and Naseeruddin Shah. WAITING is a heartrending story about confronting grief with optimism and living with courage, loving with faith, and laughing with hope.

Bangladesh is in the spotlight at SSAFF 2016 with an exceptional program of comedies, dramas, and shorts from one of Asia’s most dynamic and densely populated nations.

11th Seattle South Asian Film Festival Full Listing

Opening Night Gala

Friday, October 14 at 7:00 PM – Seattle Art Museum

Aynabaji (dir. Amithabh Chowdhury, 90min, Bangladesh)
A dark comedy about an obsessive actor who gets paid handsomely to serve jail time for the rich and powerful of Dhaka. It’s a great gig until he falls for the girl of his dreams. Director Amitabh Chowdhury and star actor Chanchal Chowdhury expected to attend.

A Ride to Remember (dir. Amar Ramesh, 4min, India)
The amazing story of auto-rickshaw driver Annadurai, also a TEDx speaker.

Pratham Youth Program

Saturday, October 15 at 12:00 PM – SIFF Film Center

Lost in Transit (dir. Ajit Giri, 2min, India)
An abstract version of how a child loses himself while he confronts the real world, which is the complete contrast of the world he aspires for.

Help Wanted (dir. Jacquile Kambo, 16min, Canada)
Pavan, a Punjabi teenager, gets involved in his local gang in order to support his fragmented family. When a drug deal goes wrong and tensions run high with his two-faced gang leader, Pavan must make a tough decision that could ultimately threaten his life and the family he has worked so hard to protect. Director Jacquile Kambo and Producer Jasleen Kaur expected to attend.

Any Other Day (dir. Vikrant Dhote and Srikant A, 12min, India)
It was just another day for Kabir and Arnav, but their lives take a turn for the worse when two cops decide to make a spectacle of them.

Syaahi (dir. Varun Tandon, 30min, India)
A young boy. A quaint hilly town. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong – but perhaps that is what metamorphosis needs. Director Varun Tandon expected to attend.

Mina Walking (dir. Yosef Baraki, 110min, Afghanistan)
Saturday, October 15 at 2:00 PM – SIFF Film Center
Mina Walking tells the story of Mina, an impulsive twelve-year-old Afghan street seller saddled with a senile grandfather and a neglectful father. Mina sees her future slipping away when she is forced to neglect her education and walk the streets of Kabul to support her family.

Himalayan Stories

Saturday, October 15 at 4:30 PM – SIFF Film Center

Tashi and the Monk (dir. Andrew Hinton, 39min, USA/India)
Former Buddhist monk Lobsang left a life as a spiritual teacher in the United States to create a unique community in the foothills of the Himalayas, rescuing orphaned and neglected children. Five-year-old Tashi is the newest arrival. Director Andrew Hinton expected to attend.

The Song Collector (dir. Erik Koto, 54min, USA/India)
A Himalayan folk singer struggles to reconcile his culture’s decline with the advantages of modernization. Director Erik Koto expected to attend.

Let Her Cry (dir. Nadya Perera, 104min, Sri Lanka)
Saturday, October 15 at 7:00 PM – SIFF Film Center
A university professor’s affair with a young student threatens the carefully established routines of his middle class family as the student’s behavior becomes obsessive and possessive. Through an unusual correspondence, the student keeps the professor’s wife informed of the affair. Then the wife makes a decision that will change everyone’s life: she brings the girl to their home to live with them.

Erotic Shorts

Saturday, October 15 at9:00 PM – SIFF Film Center

While You Slept (dir. Nadya Perera, 23min, Sri Lanka)
A Sri Lankan girl working in a “massage parlor” becomes fixated on imitating her competition, but soon her obsession takes on a life of its own.

Tell Me a Story (dir. Shobhna S. Kumar, 22min, India)
Tell Me a Story is a video project that creates space for queer people to share their stories with an aim to populate the mainstream storytelling environment with their experiences.

The Woman… and the Man (dir. Sarmistha Maiti and Rajdeep Paul, 18min, India)
Every morning, an ordinary milkman gazes at a free-spirited single woman at the balcony of a big house. A target of social misogyny and running rumors, the woman is unfazed and enjoys her independence while the man’s voyeuristic fixation slowly turns into an obsession. Torn between a compulsive desire to possess the woman and his inability to attain it, the man ultimately experiences a cruel twist of fate that challenges him to question the way he looks at women and his very notion of beauty.

Memories of a Machine (dir. Shailaja Padindala, 10min, India)
A woman narrates memories of her early sexual instincts, experiences of discovery, and struggles of being a sexually curious young lady amid the traditionally bound system in South India. Director Shailaja Padindala expected to attend.

The Farmer and I (dir. Irja von Bernstorff, 81min, Bhutan)
Sunday, October 16 at 12:00 PM – SIFF Film Center
German documentary filmmaker Irja von Bernstorff and Bhutanese farmer Sangay explore how Bhutan, after centuries of isolation, begins to fall into traps of modernization and unsustainable growth. Passionate and idealistic that the trend can be reverted, the two team up to make a 25-episode fiction TV series for the only Bhutanese TV channel, promoting an autonomous, modern, and sustainable agriculture. Offering an alternative to city life, the series appeals to a young Bhutanese audience in identity crisis. However, Irja and Sangay risk failure when the very forces that threaten Bhutan begin to put a strain on their relationship.

LGBTQ Program

Sunday, October 16 at 1:30 PM – SIFF Film Center

Black Sheep (dir. Reshel Shah, 72min, India)
An unflinching look into the lives of transgender women living in the slums of India. The Hijras of India come to bless weddings, yet they are shunned by the very society that seeks their blessings. Who are these women? What motivates them? Whom do they love? As filmmaker Reshel Shah attempts to answer these questions, she sets out to meet and live with a group of Hijras. Director Reshel Shah expected to attend.

That’s My Boy (dir. Akhil Sathyan, 24min, India)
Sonu was born a girl but always knew his physical body and mental identity were at odds with each other. Amidst adverse circumstances and an extremely poor social background, he flies toward the goal of a synergetic relationship between body and mind.

Ringan (dir. Makarand Mane, 105min, India)
Sunday, October 16 at 4:15 PM – SIFF Film Center
In this winner of India’s National Award for the Best Marathi Feature Film in 2016, a debt-ridden, suicidal farmer and his young son set off on a religious quest to visit Pandharpur, home to Vithal, Maharashtra’s beloved deity. They are both looking for answers to difficult questions, and throughout their beautiful journey, they succeed in finding one another.

Free Symposium: Race, Sexuality, and Censorship: Film, Art and Activism in India and Beyond
Tuesday, October 18 at 11:00 AM – University of Washington Thompson Hall
In collaboration with the South Asia Center at the University of Washington, SSAFF 2016 presents film screenings, academic presentations, and panel discussions that explore race relations in South Asia and here in the US, sexuality from the lens of LGBTQ cinema, and how migration from South Asia to the Middle East affects migrant workers as well as the families they leave behind. This free event is moderated by Dr. Alka Kurian; panel discussion to include visiting filmmakers Mostofa Farooki, Shailaja Padindala, Andy Schocken, Chanchal Chowdhury and Varun Tandon.

Cry Out Loud (dir. Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, 66min, India)
**Screening at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, October 18 as part of the free Symposium on Race, Sexuality, and Censorship at UW Thompson Hall
This collaboratively produced film puts cameras in the hands of a crew of young Somalis who live in Khirki Extension, Delhi, India. Together, director Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan and the crew narrate the stories of everyday life of Cameroonian, Nigerian, Ugandan, Ivorian, and Somali students, entrepreneurs, and refugees that put into perspective the violent eruptions that target Africans as undesirable outsiders and have catapulted Khirki Extension and Delhi into the international media spotlight.

Lecture: Censorship of Film & Art in South Asia
**Scheduled at 2:00 PM on Tuesday, October 18 as part of the free Symposium on Race, Sexuality, and Censorship at UW Thompson Hall
Through the use of historical, archival, and filmic material, a panel of scholars and filmmakers will interrogate the rise of cultural and intellectual intolerance in South Asia by looking at the role played both by state and non-state actors in controlling and erasing ideas, creativity, and human lives.

India’s Queer Cinema: Not Many Sinners, an academic paper presented by Lyle Pearson
**Scheduled at 4:00 PM on Tuesday, October 18 as part of the free Symposium on Race, Sexuality, and Censorship at UW Thompson Hall
Despite a rich tradition of queer mythology in India, Henry VIII’s anti-buggery law took effect as part of British imperialism in 1860. Many contemporary depictions of homosexuality in Indian film endeavor to overturn this law, known as Section 377, rather than perpetuate it.

My Child is Gay & I’m Happy (dir. Sopan Muller, 32min, India)
This series of interviews with parents of LGBTQ children shows a remarkable journey from being unsuspecting and often unaccepting to the caring, supportive parents they are today. This important documentary gives the viewer a peek into the lives of the LGBTQ community, in the conservative society of India, where homosexuality continues to be a crime.

Dancing Queens: It’s All about Family (dir. Jeff Roy, 10min, India)
This short documentary features bittersweet stories from Mumbai’s premiere professional LGBTQ dance troupe known as the Dancing Queens. Filmed over the course of five years, Dancing Queens captures the heartache of losing out to discrimination, the triumph of family, and all the dances in-between.

The Unnamed (dir. Tauquir Ahmed, 90min, Bangladesh)
Tuesday, October 18 at 7:00 PM – University of Washington Thompson Hall
A poor farmer from a remote Bangladeshi village faces challenges from bureaucracy, from his peers, and from the traditional mindset after receiving the dead body of an ‘Oggatonama’ – the unnamed – as he receives news of the death of his son who was an expatriate working in the Middle East as an unskilled laborer. The story portrays a typical Bangladeshi village, its inhabitants and economic strength through export of manpower while acknowledging that these exports involve illegal human trafficking, mistrust, and broken hopes.

Song of Lahore (dir. Andy Schocken, 82min, Pakistan)
Wednesday, October 19 at 7:00 PM – Stroum Jewish Community Center
Lahore was once a haven for a musical culture passed down for centuries to the beat of the tabla drum. Today, Islamization, ethnic divisions, war, and corruption have torn apart the cultural fabric of Pakistan. Director Andy Schocken expected to attend.

It Takes Two Hands to Clap (dir. Nadya Shah, 20min, Pakistan)
A group of folk musicians from Pakistan visit small towns in America as part of a larger Muslim cultural engagement project.

Centerpiece Gala

Thursday, October 20 at 7:00 PM – Seattle Asian Art Museum

Ant Story (dir. Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, 92min, Bangladesh)
Every day, on the way back to his suburban home, struggling young graduate Mithu envisions the dazzling city of Dhaka as a big pie. Everybody wants to have a stake in that pie. Mithu feels he is not properly equipped to win over his stake, so he starts to equip himself in an unusual and unethical fashion. Director Mostofa Sarwat Farooki expected to attend.

Life Stories

Friday, October 21 at 7:00 PM – Redmond Senior Center

Many Rivers Home (dir. Baljit Sangra, 47min, Canada)
Mixing reflections on aging, mortality, and love, this documentary examines the ties that bind South Asian families in a Lower Mainland seniors’ residence. With rich human portraiture and a depiction of a vibrant ethnic community, the core of the film is the director’s love for her mother. Director Baljit Sangra expected to attend.

In Her Words: the Journey of Indian Women (dir. Annie Zaidi, 42min, India)
Through the verses of nuns, bhakti devotee rebels, folk songs, verses written by courtesans, amateur anthropologists, the memoirs of activists, and modern literature, witness the oppressions and aspirations of Indian womanhood over two millennia.

Recitations Not From Memory (dir. Sunita Prasad, 18min, India)
This experimental video features non-actor men reciting true experiences of gender discrimination originally imparted by women in anonymous interviews. As men recount these stories as their own, unrehearsed and via a teleprompter, subtle reactions and interpretations within their performances de-center assumptions about which experiences belong to which bodies.

Let’s Talk Mental Health

Saturday, October 22 at 12:00 PM – Carco Theatre

Stuck in Time (dir. Nabhan Zaman, 5min, Bangladesh)
A man decides to end his life and quit his misery, but soon discovers his mistakes when something mysterious finds him.

Unbroken Glass (dir. Dinesh Sabu, 56min, USA)
Raised by his siblings, documentarian Dinesh Sabu had little idea who his parents were or where he came from. Now as an adult with a burning curiosity, Dinesh sets out on a journey across the United States and India to piece together their story. Uncovering a silenced family history of mental illness, Dinesh confronts the legacy of having a schizophrenic mother who died by suicide, the reality of growing up an orphaned immigrant, and the trauma of these events. Director Dinesh Sabu expected to attend.

The Cart (dir. Ashraf Shishir, 76min, Bangladesh)
Saturday, October 22 at 2:00 PM – Carco Theatre
This is the story of the indomitable dream of two young brothers, their incredible journey in life, and their hand-driven cart that has never been defeated. The story of human spirit, sufferings and simple joy.

Durga (dir. Vivek Kajaria, 14min, India)
Bhola lived his life in irony: an artist known to give eyes to lifeless idols who could not do anything about the blindness of his precious granddaughter, Durga. In the end, Bhola makes a life-altering choice and justifies his very purpose toward his granddaughter and his own gifted skill as an artist.

KrishnoPokkho – The Dark Fortnight (dir. Meher Afroz Shaon, 110min, Bangladesh)
Saturday, October 22 at 4:00 PM – Carco Theatre
This delightful musical romance drama revolves around star-crossed lovers who are not destined to be together. Based on the novel of the same name by Humayun Ahmed.

Zeal for Unity Program

Saturday, October 22 at 6:00 PM – Carco Theatre

Jeewan Hathi (dir. Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, 55min, Pakistan)
A satire and black comedy on the world of media and its manufactured reality that thrives on daily controversy and sensationalism. This film follows a symbolic tale of how the media generates and creates conflict in society.

Silvat (dir. Tanuja Chandra, 47min, India)
Noor has been living by herself for the last five years and seldom hears from her husband, who took a job abroad in the first week of their marriage. Over time, Noor realizes that she has fallen in love with a much younger man, a tailor named Anwar. Her feelings are reciprocated but Anwar fails to see the unspoken love she harbors for him, and thinks his love will remain unrequited. Can Noor keep up with the role of devout wife or will she give in and reach out to the lover she yearns for?

A panel discussion on the Zeal for Unity project will follow the screenings.

Gardaab (dir. Harune Massey, 93min, Pakistan)
Saturday, October 22 at 8:30 PM – Carco Theatre
Trapped in the web of ethnic strife in the brutal underbelly of Karachi, Gardaab is a tale of two lovers’ journey, as they struggle to break away from the unending cycle of violence that haunts the metropolis. Director Harune Massey expected to attend.

The Unseen

Sunday, October 23 at 12:00 PM – Carco Theatre

Cities of Sleep (dir. Shaunak Sen, 74min, India)
This film is set in a world where just being able to secure a good night’s sleep often becomes a matter of life and death. Trailing the lives of two individuals, we enter a heady world of night-shelters, improvised sleeping spots, and the infamous ‘sleep mafia’ of Delhi to look at the enormous influence the otherwise banal activity of sleeping is able to exert on a large number of people.

Hellhole (dir. Mobeen Ansari, 10min, Pakistan)
This short silent film takes us into the world of conservancy workers, more commonly known as gutter cleaners. We follow the life of one such worker in Karachi and witness his oft-forgotten humanity.

Kalo Pothi (dir. Min Bahadur Bham, 90min, Nepal)
Sunday, October 23 at 2:00 PM – Carco Theatre
Two young boys embark on a journey to seek their lost happiness, unaware of the tyranny brought by a broken ceasefire. They witness unimaginable events, experiencing anger, blame, guilt, frustration, and finally hope. Filmmakers Min Bahadur Bham, Shanti Rai, and Debaki Rai expected to attend.

Closing Night Gala

Sunday, October 23 at 4:00 PM –uns Carco Theatre

Waiting (dir. Anu Menon, 90min, India)
Two people befriend each other unexpectedly in a hospital while nursing their individual spouses in coma and, in time, develop a special relationship. It is a film about grief, yes, but it is also about confronting it. Tenderly and humorously, the film asks, does love mean letting go or unconditional acceptance in any shape or form?

Brother, Omar Mateen (dir. Saad Khan, 5min, USA)
This short documentary follows a Muslim queer Pakistani immigrant to the US and sympathizes with Omar Mateen, drawing parallels between his identities with that of the Orlando shooter.

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