This past Memorial Day weekend, Indian actors, directors, writers and producers showcased short and feature-length films at the 12th Annual New York Indian Film Festival in Tribeca, Manhattan. Bollywood and Hollywood industry stars came out to see some phenomenal films that displayed rising Indian filmmakers and artists in America.
Here are the five films we fell in love with from the festival.
- “Chittagong”: Bengali first-time director Bedabrata Pain was working as a NASA senior research scientist for 18 years until he decided to switch careers and make a movie about the famous Chittagong uprising from the Indian revolution against Britain. It’s an unflinching look at war and the struggle for freedom.
- “Gattu”: This film has a simple story: an illiterate boy sneaks into a school so he can fly his kite on the roof. But the way the boy achieves his goal, the reason for his kite-flying love and, more importantly, the lack of sugar-coating when representing poverty are what make this film great. And NYIFF judges agreed: “Gattu” won Best Film and Mohammad Samad won Best Young Actor for the lead role.
- “Let’s Be Out, The Sun Is Shining”: It’s the one American film on our list. Directed by first-timer and NYU alumnus Bornila Chatterjee, this drama shows the audience a glimpse into the world of the starving artists in Bushwick, Brooklyn and provides us with an honest, complicated romance between a young, naive girl and a man who wants nothing to do with love. The lead actress, Lipica Shah, is absolutely brilliant and was deservedly nominated for Best Actress. The film as a whole won the Audience Choice Award.
- “Dekh Indian Circus”: Set in present-day rural Rajasthan (Northwest India), this film follows the story of a couple who will do anything to educate their children even though they do not have the means to do so. When a circus comes to town, the couple believes this will be the perfect escape from the trials the family has faced. Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui play the couple and received Best Actress and Actor (respectively) for their roles.
- “Big in Bollywood”: After steadily playing bit roles in Hollywood movies and TV shows, Indian American actor Omi Vaidya got a part in the Bollywood film “3 Idiots,” a film which later became the highest grossing Indian film of all time. This documentary follows the actor as he lands in Mumbai before the film production and the aftermath of the release, including the actors newfound success. It’s a hilarious and sweet look at how Bollywood fame is very different than Hollywood and how Vaidya struggles with trying to balance a normal life back in the States with his wife and family.
- Honorable Mention: “Saving Face”- It won Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars this year, so clearly “Saving Face” is a film not to miss. London-based Pakistani plastic surgeon, Mohammad Jawad, travels to Pakistan to perform reconstructive surgery for women who have fallen victim to prevalent acid attacks. The film also shows the inequality women in Pakistan face compared to their male counterparts.
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