Festival brings South Asian films to Chinatown/ID

By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly

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The Tasveer South Asian International Documentary Festival takes place on June 28 and June 29, sponsored by the local Tasveer organization. All films will be shown at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle’s International District/Chinatown.

Highlights of the festival include its opening film, “Menstrual Man,” directed by Amit Virami. It’s the story of an Indian man called Muruganantham, who noticed that many Indian women could not afford sanitary pads, and launched a one-man movement to remedy this. He’s invented a machine that manufactures pads at low cost, and he’s also lead hygiene-awareness campaigns.

For his troubles, Muruganantham has been shunned and ridiculed. But more recently, he’s been hailed as a hero in his native land. The film covers his entire story to date.

The festival opens its second day with “An American in Madras.” Directed by Karan Bali, it chronicles a filmmaker from America named Ellis R. Dungan, who lived in India from 1935 to 1950.

Oddly enough for a foreigner, Dungan not only adapted to Indian culture, but became a prominent director in South India’s Tamil Film Industry, shooting 13 feature films, newsreels, and wartime propaganda, all while not understanding the local languages. Watch the film and find out how.

On lower Queen Anne, “Snowpiercer,” the latest film from prominent South Korean director Joon-ho Bong, opens June 27 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown. Bong is known best in the West for “The Host,” his wildly popular monster movie from 2006, and “Mother,” his 2009 psychological thriller.

His new film, derived from a graphic novel, takes place in the not-too-distant future, when a scientific project to halt global warming goes horrendously awry and the earth freezes. The Snowpiercer, a train running on a track around the whole globe, holds the only survivors.

As the train continues its run (powered by a fanciful, scientifically impossible perpetual motion machine), a class system solidifies on board. The wealthy elites inhabit the front of the train. The underclass settle for the tail. But the elite can and often do make raids on the tail, hauling away children and anything or anyone else they want.

Chris Evans, best known for playing the Human Torch in the “Fantastic Four” movies, leads a rebellion from the tail. Several other Western actors are featured in the colorful cast, including John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, and Ewan Bremner.

“Manakamana,” a film directed by Stephanie Spray and Pancho Velez, opens June 20 at Northwest Film Forum in Capitol Hill. It’s a systematic study of visitors to the Manakamana Temple in Nepal.

Built in the 17th century, the temple is a sacred place to the Goddess Bhagwati, and many believe that the Goddess grants wishes to anyone making the trip to it.

For most of its long existence, the only way to the temple was by an uphill walk, which could take three hours or more. Since 1998, however, a cable car has been installed which cuts the total travel time to about 10 minutes.

The film consists entirely of people going back and forth, to and from the temple, in the cable car, photographed by a camera posted inside one of the cars. We see the landscape traveled over by the car, hundreds of feet in the air. And while not every traveler remembers the old, hard way to the temple, a few do.

Subtitles give us the travelers’ speech, but the first lines of dialogue do not occur until roughly 25 minutes in. We see no identifying labels on the travelers, and we are given no information about them, or the temple. We have to piece together what we can, using our own intellects, but always with the beauty of the scenery and the underlying sense of the quest, to fall back on. (end)

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

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