The 21st San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival opened Thursday night with Bend it Like Beckham which begins opening theatrically March 12. It is an appropriate film for both personal and thematic reasons. Director Gurinder Chadha's co-writer and husband, Paul Meyeda Berges, was director of the festival in 1994 when her first film, Bhaji on the Beach, was shown. It also kicks off the focus on Cinema of the Indian Diaspora.
Bend it Like Beckham
Beckham and Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music look at the Indian experience in England. The very funny Where's The Party Yaar?, which has its world premiere at festival, offers a peek at the diaspora in Houston. Director Benny Mathews (who personally delivered the print for the press screening) and producer Sunil Thakkar, who also acts in the film, will be at the screenings.
Producer Sanjeev Shah will present Mango Souffle, the first film about gay life in India. Two films screening at the Castro shouldn't be missed: the Bollywood classic Mother India on Saturday afternoon and the influencial 1998 film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai Friday night (though for people who can't make it to San Francisco, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is among a number of films from India recently added to the GreenCine catalog).
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
The documentary Bollywood Bound (left) shows us the world's biggest film industry as it follows four Canadians actors who travel to India partly because they feel they can't get roles in North America, partly out of their love for Bollywood films. At noon on Sunday, the panel Bollywood and America - New Directions, New Markets will take place at the Radisson Miyako Hotel near the Kabuki. David Chute, who edited the special May/June 2002 issue of Film Comment on Bollywood and who has a Bollywood cover story in the LA Weekly, will moderate. Benny Mathews, journalist Lisa Tsering, and Shiraz Jivani of the Naz 8 will show films from India and Southeast Asia in Fremont, Sunnyvale, Artesia and Dallas. It will be followed at 3 pm by a panel on The Intimate Art of DV Filmmaking with Wayne Wang, DV pioneer Rob Nilsson, Eric Byler, and Greg Pak.
There are a number of excellent films shot on digital video including Eliana, Eliana from Indonesia and Unknown Pleasures from China (it will play theatrically in a number of cities and opens at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco on April 12). Byler's complex romantic comedy Charlotte Sometimes has some of the best use of DV I've seen. His first feature has scored an Independent Spirit Award Best Supporting Actress nomination for Jacqueline Kim (other nominees include Juliette Lewis, Emily Mortimer and Julianne Nicholson) and the John Cassavetes Award, given to the best film made for under $500,000 (along with Personal Velocity, and Robot Stories, the closing night film).