Chicago South Asian Film Festival 2015, celebrating South Asian cinema

photo credit: archana jain

By Atul Mishra

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Legacies are not created if they are not carried forward. A film festival is perhaps the best artistic endeavor to carry on the legacy of silver celluloid. Decades after decades, bewildering, subtle and robust masterpieces are made by visionary film makers. Few come out of the shadows, while the rest remain in obscurity. But that would be relating them to the ‘out there’ world of box office, audience and critics.

However, a film festival is beyond all these. It’s an exclusive amalgamation of reels and reals to give good films their due, it’s appreciating and celebrating them with a vision not just to watch the films one after the other but more importantly to showcase it as a learning experience while carrying forward the cinematic legacy, so that more artistic films come out of the shadows. The Chicago South Asian Film Festival which is scheduled this year for September 30 to October 5, is one such brilliant endeavor among many others that celebrate the films from South Asia.

Chicago South Asian Film Festival: An overview

The CSAFF, held in late September in downtown Chicago, screens artistic films and harbors film appreciation through panel discussions in an interactive approach; not to mention the awards in various categories and other extravaganzas like musicals.

This festival invites films from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. Recently films from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have also been invited and showcased at the CSAFF.

CSAFF was founded in 2010 by the Chicago South Asian Arts Council, Inc. It’s an exclusive annual event supported by the Mayor of Chicago, Chicago Film Office, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Consulate General of India, the Consulate General of Pakistan, Chicago Sister Cities: Delhi Committee, Evanston Public Library, the City of Evanston, Tribeca Flashpoint Film School, DePaul University, educational institutions and industry ambassadors. (Source:

The Aim

“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.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

So the CSAFF is a unique and stark step to create a cultural niche and diversity in Chicago through tie-ups with the South Asian communities and inviting films of that diaspora. It’s a celebration for the greater cultural advancement in Chicago by making film makers, movie buffs and movie goers come together on the same board.

This year’s highlights and few films in nutshell

On the first day i.e. September 30, ‘Kite (Patang)’ directed by Prashant Bhargav will be screened at the Intuit Art Center. This film which is yet to release in India stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui whose performance was highly praised by none other than Roger Ebert, the late great film critic.

kiteThe festival catapults with excitement and aroma on October 1. This day is the official opening day of the festival, with the red carpet at Showplace ICON Theater. The Tribeca Flashpoint College on this day will host the screening of nine short films of diverse lingual background, from Malayalam to Punjabi. Winner of the Crystal Bear at 64th Berlin International Film Festival, highly praised ‘Killa’ shall be screened and then a Q/A session will follow with the director of the film Avinash Arun.

DDLJThe festival unfolds over four more days. The major highlights of these four days are- the screening of ‘Margarita With a Straw’ followed by a Q&A session on Skype with Kalki Koelchin on October 2, screening of ‘Haraamkhor (The Wretched)’ along with Q&A with Shweta Tripathi, celebration of the 20th anniversary of ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ at Icon Theater, screening of the recently awarded at Melbourne Film Festival ‘Kaaka Muttai’ on October 4. The final day shall host the screening of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Devi’ — the closing film for the festival which would be later ornamented with a Q/A session with Sharmila Tagore.

(Credit: Archana Jain, Festival Director)