Festival brings stories to Seattle

By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly

“The mission of Tasveer,” said Aaron D. Williams, director of technology for the organization board, “is to primarily bring meaningful films, but also visual, literary, performance, and other art forms from South Asia and Diaspora, to the Pacific Northwest.”

Founded by Rita Meher 10 years ago, Tasveer has hosted the South Asian Film Festival for a decade, but the first South Asian Documentary Festival, running Feb. 23 and Feb. 24 at the Seattle Center, marks a new event.

“Tasveer includes the organization’s advisory board and a small group of trusted volunteers to select the films for the festival,” said Williams. “After the submission deadline, we meet and view the films as a group. The individual screenings are followed by a discussion. Votes on the films decide the festival schedule.”

“As you can imagine,” he continued, “this takes a great deal of time. However, it’s a valuable way to examine the merits of each film … Ensuring that the film or program does not violate the group’s mission is paramount.”

Williams mentions five favorite titles. “Invoking Justice,” directed by Deepa Dhanraj, follows the development in South India of an all-female Jamaat — a group to resolve family disputes — in reaction to the ignorance and contempt that the traditional, all-male Jamaats displayed for women and women’s issues.

“Still Standing,” directed by Pankaj Johar, follows the incredible story of the filmmaker’s father, Rajinder Sokar, an activist and advocate for the handicapped in India, who accomplishes amazing social feats despite being paralyzed from the neck down for the last 24 years.

Sharmeen Obiad-Chinoy’s “Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret,” follows transgender men and women as they forge a street-level community of their own in the Pakistan metropolis of Karachi, supporting themselves by dancing, singing, begging, and sometimes prostitution.

Anneta Papathanasiou’s “The Nymphs Of Hindu Kush,” set in Northwest Pakistan, focuses on the women of the Kalasha tribe, struggling to maintain their own culture in the face of encroaching globalization.

Finally, Miriam Chandy Menacherry’s “The Rat Race” crawls through the Indian city of Mumbai, exploring the incorrigible rats of the city’s underbelly, and the tireless, sometimes thankless men determined to wipe them out.

A reception, starting at 8:30 p.m., follows the screenings on Saturday and will feature food, wine, and film talk. On Sunday afternoon, a Tasveer award ceremony will grant $500 to the maker of the best-judged short film in the festival and $1,000 for the best-judged feature.

“I’m quite proud of our selection for the first documentary festival and I know it’ll be memorable,” Williams said. “This has always been the focus and mission of the organization. A tiny shift in the focus on film to include more mediums would count for the only change to the mission over the years. The mission’s simplicity and importance has secured its intent.” (end)

The first South Asian International Documentary Festival runs Feb. 23rd and Feb. 24th at the SIFF Film Center at Seattle Center, 305 Harrison Street at Seattle Center. For online film previews, prices, showtimes, and directions, visit www.tasveer.org.

Andrew Hamlin can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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