#KnowMe: Tasveer South Asian Film Festival bridges a cultural divide through stories

‘Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes’ looks at the pervasive culture of racist stereotyping in U.S. society through the lens of comics and their dynamic creators. The film will be showing at the 2018 Tasveer South Asian Film Festival. (Photo Courtesy of Tasveer.)

The following is a sponsored message from Tasveer‘s guest programming director Laila Kazmi of the 2018 Tasveer South Asian Film Festival.

When Rita Meher first asked me to serve as the guest programming director for this year’s Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (TSAFF), I accepted without hesitation. For years now I have watched Meher work with dedication to bring South Asia stories to the audiences in the Pacific Northwest. Driven to bridge a cultural divide through stories, what Meher and Tasveer co-founder Farah Nousheen started as a single screening event back in 2002 has grown into the largest South Asian film festival in the United States. As a producer and storyteller myself with a penchant for world cinema, I am grateful to be able to contribute to continuing that tradition.

After months of hard work by a dedicated team, we are delighted to share the full lineup of programs for #TSAFF2018. You will see highly anticipated films, meet internationally renowned directors, and watch some beautifully crafted, heartfelt stories from new and emerging filmmakers from across South Asia and the diaspora. In total, there are 64 films including 22 feature films, 42 short films, and 7 VR films, from 10 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Canada, India, Israel, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, United States.

The festival theme is #KnowMe, inviting the audiences to get to know people from South Asia and South Asian Americans, through our stories, created and curated by us.

With Pakistan being the focus country for #TSAFF2018 and #KnowMe the festival theme, we wanted to show Pakistan as it has never before been seen by audiences in the Pacific Northwest, meaning go beyond the headlines of conflicts and present nuanced stories of people. With a total of 19 films from Pakistani filmmakers—surely a first for any international film festival—we believe that we achieved this goal. Over the past 20 years, a new generation of filmmakers—from both within and outside of Pakistan—appear to be hard at work at reviving the once thriving film industry in the country. Two remarkable feature films in the festival Cake (dir Asim Abbasi, Opening Night Gala and Film, Sept 28 6:30 pm, Seattle Art Museum) and My Pure Land (dir Sarmad Masud, Sept 29 8:00pm, SIFF Film Center) are indicative that Pakistani cinema has arrived, albeit one film at a time. Both stories of family drama boast high quality of production, acting, and character development, while drawing you in and keeping you on edge as the stories unfold. Cake director Abbasi and wildly popular stars Sanam Saeed and Aamina Sheikh are expected to attend the opening night Red Carpet Gala and Film screening at the Seattle Art Museum!

With Oscar-winning documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (dir. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Sept 13th 6:30pm, Pigott Auditorium), and the long-awaited Salam: The First ****** Nobel Laureate (Kamalkar/Vandal/Thaver, Oct 4th 7:00pm, Ronald Geballe Auditorium UW), it is clear that Pakistani documentary filmmakers are not shying away from complicated subjects.

Internationally renowned for her work and two-time Academy Award-winner Obaid Chinoy makes her visit to Seattle for the TSAFF launch and screening of her film on Sept 13th at the Seattle University.

While Pakistan is the focus country, TSAFF is truly a South Asian film festival, showing the diversity of South Asia. Honeygiver Among the Dogs (Dechen Roder, Oct 6th 5pm, Northwest Film Forum) by one of the first female directors from Bhutan, skillfully weaves in ethereal sequences as a detective follows an enchanting suspect in an effort to solve the mystery of a missing Bhuddist nun, who suddenly vanished from town. Roya Sadat’s A Letter to the President (Sadat, Sept 30th 4pm, SIFF Film Center) is a story of one woman who boldly takes on the patriarchy and bears the consequences in present day Afghanistan. Sadat, too, is one of her country’s first acclaimed female directors since the ouster of the Taliban.

In addition to feature films, the 42 short films selected to screen present diverse and moving narratives and short documentaries by both established and new directors and tackle subjects of women’s empowerment, exploitation of the poor, LGBTQ stories, and race and identity.

TSAFF is not complete without engaging panel discussions around topics covered in the films that screen. This year, there are four important panels: Do We Belong? (Sofian Khan, Oct 7th noon, Northwest Film Forum), presented with ACLU, features a conversation with Sunayana Dumala, the widow of Indian immigrant tech worker Srinivas Kochibhotla who was killed last year in a hate crime in Kansas. Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity, and Stereotypes (Harleen Kaur, Sept 29th 2pm, SIFF Film Center), presented with partner Wing Luke Museum, presents three American comics who are challenging the notions of what a super hero ‘looks like’ by introducing characters from under represented communities as super hero. A Better Man (Attiya Khan, Oct 1st 7pm, Bellevue Art Museum), presented in partnership with API Chaya, explores the director’s thoughtful and unique approach to addressing and coming to terms with years of domestic abuse that she suffered at the hands of her former male partner.

Women’s stories dominate the program of the festival and majority of the films presented are Washington State premieres.

The Closing Night film is a special treat, the Washington State premiere of Pataakha (Vishal Bhardwaj, Oct 7th 3:30pm, SIFF Cinema Egyptian) by one of India’s most prominent directors Vishal Bhardwaj, who is expected to attend! Like the opening night film, Pataakha is a raw, emotionally charged, and highly entertaining story of two sisters having a reckoning after years of conflict.

We are especially delighted to welcome nearly 30 filmmakers from India, Pakistan, UK, Los Angeles, New York, as well as a few locally based in Seattle. Prominent directors and cast making appearances at TSAFF include Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness), Asim Abassi (Cake), Sanam Saeed (Cake), Aamina Sheikh (Cake), Mehreen Jabbar (Lala Begum), Vishwajit Singh aka The Sikh Captain America (Drawn Together), Sunayna Dumala (Do We Belong?), and Vishal Bhardwaj (Pataakha) to Seattle for this Washington premieres of each of their films.

While taking on some important heavy subjects on social justice themes, the festival is packed with thoughtful, entertaining, and engaging films and panels. A hearty thanks to the filmmakers, sponsors, partners, TSAFF staff and volunteers for making this year’s festival possible. Come walk the red carpet on opening night, watch the films over the 11-day festival, meet the filmmakers, and be a part of the largest South Asian film festival taking place right here in our city!

We can’t wait to see you there!

The 13th Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (#TSAFF2018) takes places Sept 28—Oct 7, 2018. For tickets and full festival schedule and venue information visit: Tasveer.org