Aparna, Shabana light up S.Asian Film Festival

2017 10 02 PHOTO 00000014 web
Chicago SA Film Fest organizing team

CHICAGO: The eighth annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival held this year had the underlying theme ‘Women in Cinema’ and featured renowned actress and director Aparna Sen along with actress Shabana Azmi and Rajkumar Rao, the lead actor in India’s entry for the Oscars, “Newton.”

Shabana Azmi was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The three-day festival was inaugurated on September 29 with a glittering red carpet event and concluded on October 1. Over the years, the festival has become the largest film festival of its kind in the Midwest, competing, in the range of films shown with older South Asian film festivals like the one in New York.

The films were screened in downtown Chicago, at the Showplace ICON Theater in the South Loop, at DePaul University’s School of Cinematic Arts in the loop, and in Oakbrook, at the Oakbrook AMC Theater.

“The Festival creates an innovative cultural and cinematic experience for Chicagoans and visitors alike. Through the gift of film, the Chicago South Asian Film Festival invites all to share and enjoy the magic of cinema and true cultural exchange. The City is proud to host this extraordinary partnership between the South Asian community and the arts and entertainment industry,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in his message to the festival.

The Festival this year featured films from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. Films from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have also received a platform at CSAFF.

The Festival was founded in 2010 by Amit Rana, Mileen Patel and Ketki Parikh with the support of Vachikam Inc. and the Network of Indian professionals. The inaugural event attracted over 1,300 attendees including filmmakers Aparna Sen, Deepti Naval and Ajay Naidu.

Other South Asian film talent who participated this year included Askhay Oberoi, Fawzia Mirza, Shahana Goswami, Barun Sobti, Adeel Hussain and Mehreen Jabbar.

“This year we have a strong lineup of independent films, showcasing challenging and interesting aspects of society and human emotions. We have films from across the globe – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal as well as North America and Canada region,” said festival official Jigar Shah.

Among the films screened were “Sonata,” “Trapped” and “Gurgaon”. “Sonata”, directed by Aparna Sen, explores the lives of three unmarried women friends, Aruna Chaturvedi, a professor, Dolon Sen, a banker, and Subhadra Parekh, a journalist, played by Sen, Shabana Azmi and Lillete Dubey respectively.
The festival closed with an awards ceremony for best feature and short films as chosen by the jury and the audience.

South Asian cinema is a highly male-dominated industry where male characters will mostly always be the hero, lead, or main character while a female will only fill a side role. Most films will generally focus on the male as the savior while the female is seen as the victim that needs to be rescued or fallen in love with. Such films generally mold opinions and often reinforce the idea that women just fill a weaker insubordinate role in society.

Additionally, ramifications arise when women’s roles in society are only explored through the male’s point of view. Most films also omit the adversities that women of all socio-economic backgrounds face on a daily basis such as sexual harassment, access to education, as well as limited opportunities for growth in society.

Filmmakers such as Konkona Sen and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy are challenging the male-dominated South Asian film industry and taking on women’s issues by portraying lives of ordinary women and the challenges encountered, creating a multi-dimensional character.

SN Ullal

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