Not Just More of the Same, South Asian Filmmakers Break Out of Shape – KUOW News and Information | Episode Movies

Seattle-based Tasveer South Asian Film Festival comes to town this Thursday. It is a festival dedicated to films made by and about South Asians.

Many Americans think of Bollywood when they think of South Asian films, or perhaps this year’s hit film RRR. But South Asian film goes far beyond these boundaries.

KUOW Community Outreach Coordinator Kamna Shastri immersed himself in the festival.

For them, the festival represents the demographic change in western Washington.

“I grew up here in the ’90s and 2000s,” says Shastri. “When I was growing up, there weren’t that many of us, even 20, 25 years ago. And that population has grown exponentially in our area. And then the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival really challenges our mindset. South Asian cinema is not just about Bollywood, it also includes so many regional languages.”

South Asia includes eight countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and dozens of languages. The festival is also intended to represent members of the diaspora.

“More and more South Asians are making films who live here in North America,” says Rita Meher, founder and executive director of the film festival.

“We want to offer all kinds of perspectives. Like another cross section of intersectional perspectives on different stories and characters. It really gives me a lot of satisfaction and joy when someone comes up to me and says, ‘Oh, I had no idea so and so, something like this happened, or this story existed, or this community existed.'”

Overall, the festival shows films from 17 countries in 15 languages.

According to Meher, one goal of the festival is to show the diversity of South Asia and the diaspora.

The festival’s opening film, Four Samosas, is about the diaspora. The film is set in Artesia, a Los Angeles neighborhood also known as Little India.

“I feel inspired in this world for storytelling, and I’m also in my comfort zone,” said Ravi Kapoor, director of Four Samosas. “I want to tell these stories, and I feel like they’re under-told. And there’s definitely room for them. There’s plenty of room for them. And it’s best that we tell those stories ourselves, rather than waiting for someone who doesn’t.”

However, Four Samosas actor and producer Venk Potula also points out that diasporic films are not about an experience or identity.

“I think what’s exciting now is seeing other filmmakers telling their version of a diaspora story, too,” says Potula. “And I think it’s important that we don’t have to define it and make it look like that. Because then we can really show people what an experience can be. That is authentic for us without trying to fit into any scheme.”

Kapoor also noted that the South Asian experiences shown on screen are often dictated by larger production companies, which are often not owned or controlled by other South Asians.

“What they want to see from us are the same stories,” says Kapoor. “They want to see stories about arranged marriages, they want to see stories about how difficult it is to fit in. That’s what they saw, and they think that’s what their audience wants to continue to see. And just by having them in control of the development process and also the production process, we can say, ‘Wait a minute, these aren’t our only stories.’”

Filmmaker Maya Bastian also addresses the importance of perspective in her Tasveer short film “Tigress”.

“What decisions would you make if you lived in a war zone?” asks Bastian. “We very simply sit and judge from afar, these rebel organizations. We judge a lot of things. And what I learned from those places is that you really can’t judge what decisions people make.”

Bastian is a Tamil-Canadian filmmaker from Sri Lanka. In “Tigress,” a young woman named Trina returns to Sri Lanka and faces the privilege of living in the West.

“I think questioning your identity and struggling with the privileges that we carry here, knowing that our ancestors didn’t have those privileges, knowing they still don’t have those privileges in these countries, that is have a big, big question from many children of the first generation,” says Bastian. “How do you somehow correct your own privilege, how you move in the world?”

But as with Kapoor and Potula, it is the individual that draws Bastian into a story.

“I think it’s the unique experiences that attract me,” says Bastian, “because then there are endless stories to tell.”

The Tasveer South Asian Film Festival begins Thursday, November 3rd and runs through November 20th. More information about the festival can be found here.

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