South Asian lives captured in cinema

  • by David Lamble
  • Tuesday November 5, 2019
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"Bangla" will play 3rd i's San Francisco South Asian Film Festival, "Bollywood and Beyond." Photo: Courtesy 3rd i
"Bangla" will play 3rd i's San Francisco South Asian Film Festival, "Bollywood and Beyond." Photo: Courtesy 3rd i

San Francisco's annual parade of film festivals wraps up for 2019 with the 17th edition of the San Francisco South Asian Film Festival, "Bollywood and Beyond." It runs Nov. 7-10 at the New People Cinema and the Castro Theatre in the city, then heads south to Palo Alto for a program on Nov. 16. From art-house classics to innovative visions, 3rd i presents over a dozen new films from India, Sri Lanka, Italy, the UK and the US.

This year the program of short films includes "Home Girl," British-Pakistani writer-director Poonam Brah's anxious comedy about a young lesbian's efforts to square her coming out with her culturally conservative deceased mother's ideas about how a young woman should behave. Her difficulties are complicated by the thoughtless actions of her handsome but jealous and homophobic teenage brother.

Among the other shorts is "31 Foot Ladders," where an enterprising businessman explains his plan for profiting from Donald Trump's plan to build a 30-foot wall along the US/Mexican border. (11/10, New People)

On Saturday, Nov. 9, the Castro Theatre will showcase a quartet of narrative features from just after Noon to 10 p.m. They are:

"The Ravening" In Indian filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika's love story, a doctor and a doctoral student share their love for offbeat meat-eating in a story that builds slowly and ends in a wild finale. (India, 2019)

"Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence" A comic variation on the traditional road movie, this contemplative film travels through the enchanting landscapes of Ladakh. Driven mad by the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, Chauffeur Namdev drives off to find the fabled Silent Valley. A deft emotional trip with an unexpected surprise ending. (India, 2018)

"Children of the Sun" Prasanna Vithanage's bold masterpiece is a 19th-century drama that deals with caste conflict and British colonial rule in Sri Lanka in the early 1800s. Drawing from ingredients that range from historical drama to subtle and extraordinary storytelling, his camera is transfixing as he creates an empathetic film that is in turns heart-wrenching and hopeful. Filmmaker in person, panel Q&A. (Sri Lanka, 2019)

"Bombay Rose" Bollywood at the Castro, an animated tribute! In this beautiful and evocative hand-painted animated feature, a single red rose is the device for three fantastical tales of unsung heroes and impossible loves. There is an ethereal brightness to the chaotic Mumbai streetscapes where Bollywood cinema is both satirized and romanticized. (India, UK, France, Qatar, 2019)

"Bulbul Can Sing" Director Rima Das follows a trio of friends looking to find themselves against the backdrop of India's Assamese province. (11/7, New People)

"American Hasi" Indian-American comic Tushar Singh is profiled as he completes a standup through India accompanied by his mom. The film includes visits with fellow comedians Vir Das and Russell Peters. (11/8, New People)

"Cat Sticks" A hit at the recent Slamdance Festival, this sadly timely doc from director Ronny Sen is a haunting account of addicts struggling against heroin addiction. (11/8, New People)

"Chippa" A 10-year-old boy journeys through Calcutta at night in search of a father he has never met. (11/10, New People)

"Bangla" A 22-year-old Italian-Bengali youth undergoes a panic attack when he meets and falls for a young Italian woman. (11/10, New People)

"Sivaraniani and Two Other Women" portrays women struggling with identity and self-worth while dealing with early marriage and pregnancy in three different historical periods. (11/10, New People)