Three days, nine films, eight shorts, and endless bliss courtesy of last weekend’s fourth annual 3rd I South Asian Film Festival. This year’s lineup showcased a wide range of tastes. Opening night at the Yerba Buena Theater Friday started off with a super rare screening of British Asian Dub documentary “Foundation & Empire,” followed by a local South Asian Shorts, featuring a Q&A that included every director in attendance.
On Saturday, before crowd favorite Bollywood/art film “Omkara,” Festival Assistant Director Amrita Gandhi thanked the festival’s many helping hands at a rowdy party on the Castro’s mezzanine level. Some of the folks seen eating spicy samosas and snapping goofy web photos were Indian Consul General B.S. Prakash, San Francisco International Film Festival Executive Director Graham Leggat, Landmark Theater’s Steve Indig, Center for Asian American Media Festival Director Chi-hui Yang, and New York fashion designer Anand Jon (described to me as India’s version of Yves Saint Laurent).
Crowds packed the Castro Theater all day. “We were pleasantly surprised by this year’s attendance,” Festival Director Ivan Jaigirdar told me while the line for the latest Bollywood mega-starer, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, snaked around two corners. “The audience adored the film so much. They laughed, they cried, they almost gave it a standing ovation. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna wasn’t my favorite film this year, but thanks to the audience enthusiasm I really started liking it.”
Sunday’s sold out screenings at the Roxie continued the enthusiasm and culminated in a wild dancing-in-the-aisles-shouting-out-dialog-sing-along to beloved 1970s curry western “Sholay.” 3rd I volunteer Nishant Bhatia has seen the film seven or eight times in the theater and can quote every line of dialog. “The film came out in 1975 and it was a big deal. It was one of the first Indian films to be released on 70mm and it was so popular, an LP album of the dialog was issued.” Even with all the loyal film’s fans in attendance, when the crowd was surveyed by festival staff, roughly half had not seen the film before and almost a fourth had never seen it in the theater. UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance & Performance Professor Sudipto Chatterjee introduced the film by saying, “What ‘Sholay’ has done in the context of Indian cinema is so insurmountable that I can scarcely do any justice to it in the short time that we have. What can be described as the first Eastern Western ‘Sholay’ has broken so many records that there should be a Sholay B.C and a Sholay A.D. In my hometown in Calcutta our theater held the film for eleven years!”
Before the screening, 3rd I was presented with an Appreciation Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Indian American Community by local magazine India Life & Style assistant editor Diana Rohini LaVigne, who said, “I’m sure 3rd I will be getting hundreds of these in years to come.”
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