Wednesday, February 15, 2012

India International Film Festival Tampa Bay: What should I expect from a film fest?

After months spent in seething jealousy at others' film festival goings, I finally get my own film festival to enjoy: the India International Film Festival Tampa Bay. I've lived in the Tampa Bay area for a month today, and one of the exciting things about the area for me were its ethnically diverse offerings that I couldn't get where I'm from. (A few include an Indian theater, Indian events and Indian clothing stores, though of course other ethnicities' presence are a plus too!)

And Tampa has welcomed me with an Indian film festival. I'm excited for Sunday.

But I'm nervous also. Part of it is the standard gori-among-desis fare that I generally face going to Bollywood films and Indian grocery stores — do I wear a salwar kameez so I blend in or does that make me seem weird? Do I do the little things, like calling people bhai sahib or aunty/uncle? And are a quick shukriya or dhanyavaad appropriate or do I stick with "thanks"?

Part of it is the fact that I've never been to any  real film festival before. Before Bollywood, film was never that big of a deal for me. My sole experience with a "film festival" was in September when a local Latina Women's League held screenings of Latino-relevant films across the weekends of a month and I attended one screening.

What does one expect from a film festival? Just the experience of watching a film multiplied by several films? I know actors (no one I know) and directors will be around for the festival, but in my usual shyness plus the aforementioned gori awkwardness, I'm unlikely to ask any questions. I'm also not typically fond of Q-and-A sessions because, let's face it, most of the time, they're just boring; people ask boring questions and those being asked go on long, mostly irrelevant spiels.

At least I get to be excited about the variety of the lineup, although I wish I could attend both full days of the festival instead of one (I'm working the opening half-day and first full day of the festival; I only get to attend the final full day). I'm missing a Tamil film, a Punjabi film, a Hinglish rom-com called "Love You To Death" that looks like fun, and a documentary on Indian weddings. But I will catch a Marathi film and a Gujarati film (hooray!) as well as an English one, plus Hindi, English and Bengali shorts.

The lineup of main features is as follows:

The Myth of Buddha's Birthplace - Documentary, English. An ancient stone inscription, discovered in 1928, states that the Buddha was born in a village in eastern India. This claim runs counter to all established theories, so two anthropologists investigate. (Probably skipping, actually.)
Paulwaat (The Pathway) - Marathi. A relation based story of a youngster who wants to become a playback singer and an old landlady with whom he is living as a paying guest.
Patang (The Kite) - Gujarati. A poetic journey to the old city of Ahmedabad, Patang weaves together the stories of six people transformed by the energy of India's largest kite festival.
Love, Lies and Seeta - English. A romantic comedy about "falling for a girl who doesn't believe love exists", interweaving friendships that cross traditional borders of ethnicity and how they feel about love.

Anything you guys have to say about film festivals would be much appreciated!

EDIT: Here's a link to my thoughts on what I saw at the film festival.


  1. I hope you enjoy it. I would be feeling all the same things as you even though there are lots and lots of Indian shops etc on my side of the city. The reason I'm hesitant about trying out the language and the clothes is that most British Asians that I know can't speak it, don't wear it, and don't even watch the films. That makes me feel even more weird! I've been planning to pluck up courage and buy something from one of the sari shops in town, only now I've managed to get a fantastic Indian kameez ... in my local supermarket. Signs of the times.

  2. Yeah, I know there are plenty of folks who don't speak it, wear it or watch the films, which is yes, totally weird. Like the second and third salwar kameezes I bought were from an Indian-American woman, and when she asked why I wanted them, I told her I was a bit Indian at heart, and she told me, "Oh, I'm white at heart. That's why I'm selling them." But I now own six salwar kameezes and a sari. I wear the salwar kameezes fairly often (but never the sari; too much of a hassle and too dressy) and totally have an addiction to them. But I am always afraid someone will look at it and think I'm insanely weird.