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South Asian Online Film Festival this Weekend

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Reporter

3rd i presents its 19th annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond (SFISAFF) online Nov 12-16, 2021. The five-day Festival screens live stream and video-on-demand (VOD) programs of narrative features and shorts by independent filmmakers from South Asia and its diaspora, including stories from India, Sri Lanka, France, the UK, and the Pakistani community in the US. Included are some festival award-winners. 

For its opening night, the festival features a pandemic-themed rom-com: 7 Days.  Roshan Sethi’s film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and is about an Indian American couple forced to shelter in place after their first date.  Ravi (Karan Soni who co-wrote with Sethi) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan)  are forced to face truths about each other and themselves and Soni and Sethi’s script doesn’t follow the trope of the conservative being freed up to really live. Ravi and Rita meet somewhere in between, with Rita realizing her self-destructive rebellious ways aren’t working and Ravi considering stepping out of his comfort zone. 

7 Days will live stream Friday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. PST, and be followed by a live Zoom Q&A with the filmmaker and the audience.

P.S. Vinothraj’s debut film Pebbles (Koozhangal) won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year and is India’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar.  

This film is not for the squeamish because it involves the capture, disabling, killing, and roasting of small animals.  In the arid land where there are no highways and people do not own cars, a motorbike may be a luxury. People take buses or walk. Barging into his son’s school during a lesson, a father (Karuththadaiyaan)  orders his son Velu (Chellapandi)  to follow him. We and the camera lag behind. The father turns as asks: “Do you like me or your mother?” Can there be a correct answer for the young Velu? Velu chooses to say nothing. Velu’s father is only one example of toxic masculinity that we’ll see. The film has a definite feeling of place, but I didn’t see any assurance that the treatment of animals was humane and that’s worrisome, particularly for US award competitions. Otherwise, the film is beautifully shot and has an unblinking gaze at the harsh conditions.

Pebbles is available on-demand for California viewers only. Available to watch November 12, 2021 12:00 a.m. PST – November 16, 2021 10:00 p.m. PST. In Tamil with English subtitles.

Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s Writing with Fire won the Sundance Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary and the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact for Change. The film takes us to the newsroom of Khabar Lahariya (Waves of News), India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. When the newspaper was started in 2002, people expected it to fail. Led by founder Meera, these journalists tackle government malfeasance, patriarchy, and rampant gender and caste violence (including gang rape).

Writing by Fire is a must-see for journalists and women. It made its world premiere at Sundance.  In Hindi with English subtitles. 

Writing with Fire is available on-demand, November 12, 2021, 12:00 a.m. PST – November 16, 2021,  10:00 p.m. PST.

Tickets to individual films are $4.99. For more information about the festival and tickets visit

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