Forbidden desires, buried memories, life on the margins, non-traditional gender identities, destructive cultural stereotypes — the Engendered I-View Film Festival (Sept 18-26, Asia Society on Park Avenue/other venues) is beautifully centered in its mission, to put together a South Asian film festival that is fun, fresh, and exciting, and that also keeps a steady eye on much that is not usually looked at in South Asian culture.
Directors and stars, from the Hindi film world, Bollywood and elsewhere, Kolkata, Pakistan, and many other places on the international cinema map, will be present to talk about their movies at virtually every screening of the 25 or more films chosen for the festival.
The festival includes a large number of US and world premieres, but maybe because it is more focused on content and “life” than on commerce, the atmosphere of the festival – and the many satellite parties, panel discussions, and delightful fashion shows that go with it – has in the past had a warmly inclusive feel, with time and space for audience members to engage with each other, festival staff, and the filmmakers and actors who are festival guests. Myna Mukherjee, Engendered I-View’s executive and programming director, has a gift for creating festival communities with a culture of decency and authenticity.
Onscreen celebrity guests who will be there this year, as of today, include Zeenat Aman, Helen, Juhi Chawla, Konkona Sen Sharma (she will also present a short film she directed), Rahul Bose, Rituparno Ghosh (as an actor and director), Arshad Warsi, Arjun Mathur, Aparna Sen (as actor and director), Sanjay Suri, Purab Kohli, and Raima Sen.
Directors of most of the films will be present in person. They include: Vishal Bharadwaj, Dibakar Bannerjee, Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh, and Onir Anirban as well as Saeed Mirza., M.S. Sathyu, and the makers of almost every feature, documentary, and short film.
A few highlights from a schedule of 25+ films include: for opening night, Saturday, September 18, a reception and red carpet event with most of the festival celebrity guests, and a North American premiere screening of I Am, from Onir (My Brother Nikhil): four stories about challenging modern-day situations — homosexuality, blackmail (Rahul Bose/Arjun Mathur), pregnancy via sperm donor (Nandita Das/Kurab Kohli), adult survival of child abuse (Sanjay Suri), and return to a lost home in Kashmir (Juhi Chawla/Manisha Koirala).
On the afternoon of September 18 — a brunch party, films, and panel discussion on the theme “Contraband Pakistan – Debunking the Stereotypes”. A program highlight is Bhutto, a rich, informative, and highly discussable documentary about the family, historical context, and life of Benazir Bhutto, the Harvard-educated woman Prime Minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007. Also – (Women of )Without Shepherds, about the lives of four different women living in Pakistan today, excerpted from a highly-praised documentary in progress, Without Shepherds.
Festival Centerpiece – Just Another Love Story, starring Rituparno Ghosh (director of Chokher Bali, Raincoat): different generations, different identities: an openly gay film director and his bi-sexual partner are making a film in Kolkata about Chapal Bhaduri, a male folk theater performer/jatra who has lived his life portraying women (Chapal is an actual living person in Bengal, now in his 70s).. Another talked-about movie is Sanjay Sharma’s Dunno Y . . . Ya Jaane Kyun – buzz in the press about the sexy male romantic poster couple, and extra excitement for Bollywood fans about the promised appearances, on screen and in person, of Zeenat Aman and Helen.
The closing film is Mirch, directed by Vinay Shukla, a look at the subject of women and freedom through four stories about betrayal, two starring Konkona Sen Sharma and with a cast that includes Boman Irani, Raima Sen (attending), and other Bollywood favorites.
And more . . .
In addition to several programs of documentaries and short films,