From a young woman’s monumental journey on foot across India to a Spelling Bee champion who struggles to care for her sick mother, the female-led productions in this year’s NYC South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF) tell timely and timeless stories that urge us to shed our stereotypes and other simplistic generalizations.
Now in its third year, the festival, presented by Jingo Media, continues to showcase the voices of South Asian creatives — those living in their home countries as well those living in the diaspora — to engage, educate, and inspire audiences.
This weekend, New Yorkers will have the chance to not only watch these compelling films (films that tackle topics across gender, caste, religion, and politics that impact women and their lives), but also enjoy a total of 22 finely curated shorts, documentaries, and features.
Here are the three of the festival’s must-sees, all of which feature South Asian women in leading roles both in front of and behind the camera.
WOMB (WOMEN OF MY BILLION)
Opening night film WOMB (Women of My Billion), is a poignant and heartwarming narrative that explores the social and political issues facing women living in India today. Through filmmaker Srishti Bakshi’s eyes, we’re taken on a 3800 km journey by foot over 240 days from Kanyakumari (South India) to Kashmir (North India). Bakshi introduces us to women from all corners of India who share their plights and dreams as they resolve to fight against injustices and all forms of gender violence.
The film, produced entirely by women alongside male director Ajitesh Sharma, reminds us that as women, we all share a common reality of living and navigating through an insurmountable patriarchal society that the many ‘sheroes’ in our lives are still battling to overcome.
Written, produced and directed by Sujata Day, this intergenerational dramedy follows a former Scribbs Spelling Bee champion who balances trying to reconcile with her estranged brother while helping to care for their sick mother.
Day plays protagonist Monica Chowdury herself, giving us an intimate look into the dynamics of an Indian American family behind closed doors. Definition Please is a firsthand account of the internal conflicts that South Asian women often deal with on a day-to-day basis, including putting your family’s needs before your own.
Here we see moments of laughter, triumph, and tenderness that intersperse with broader themes of self-love, facing one’s fears, and letting go — all creating relatable characters that refuse to fit into the model minority myth.
INDIA SWEETS AND SPICES
Closing night film, India Sweets and Spices, written, produced, and directed by Geeta Malik, offers a fresh take on the classic young woman’s coming of age story set against a lovingly-framed glimpse of the life of an Indian American family.
Outspoken Indian American freshman “Alia Kapur” (Sophia Ali) returns home to her wealthy New Jersey suburb during her summer break from college and upends her parents’ pretentious lifestyle in order to make sense of her own evolving identity. When she meets “Varun” (Rish Shah), the handsome son of local shopkeepers, Alia impulsively invites him to her strait-laced mother’s upcoming extravagant soirée where family secrets are accidentally revealed.
With its tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, this film brings us an acute understanding of class and privilege that leaves us with an unexpectedly nourishing aftertaste.
The 3rd annual NYC South Asian Film Festival runs from Friday, October 22 to Sunday, October 24 at the Helen Mills Event Space & Theater in Chelsea. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.nycsaff.com.
To watch films online, please visit here.
© Reanne Rodrigues (10/22/21) Special for FF2 Media
Reanne is an arts and culture writer based in Manhattan, New York City. Her writing explores what it means to be a global citizen, which stems from her international upbringing across Mumbai, Dubai, London, Toronto, and more. She also loves telling impactful stories about artists and the value they bring to the world. Reach out to her if you’d like to collaborate on any projects or indulge in a lively discussion over chai at www.reannewrites.com.
Click here to watch the trailer for Definition Please.
Click here to learn more about Jingo Media.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: WOMB (Women of my Billion).Courtesy of NYC SAFF. All Rights Reserved.
Bottom Photo: Indian Sweets and Spices. Courtesy of NYC SAFF. All Rights Reserved.