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Ten candles for Southeast Asian films' '3rd i' festival

Maldives president and his sinking islands
Maldives president and his sinking islands
studio courtesy

It would be splendid to relate the story from today's New York Times ( to the announcement of the 10th annual 3rd i Festival ( - not up to date yet) in the Bay Area, but that may be a stretch.

The festival does not deal with Lakha Khan, one of the few remaining Sindhi sarangi players, whose music is finally being recorded. If there was a film about Lakhaji, it would surely include the scene in which "he plays for hours - until black beetles falling from the ceiling indicate nighttime - usually with no more company than a couple of passing goats." I'd love to see that on the screen.

Still, festival co-director Ivan Jaigirdar (with Anuj Vaidya) is "most excited" about the new films and film makers from the Subcontinent showcased at Sept. 19-23 screenings in the Roxie and Castro theaters, on Sept. 30 in San Jose's Camera 12.

Jaigirdar especially recommends Avie Luthra's "Lucky" (4:30 p.m. Sept 22, Castro), a new feature-length version of his popular short film, which has won over 50 awards on the international film festival circuit. Filmed in Zulu and Hindi, this is a story of an unusual alliance between a South African boy and elderly Indian woman. It highlights issues of family, race and friendship in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Another film Jaigirdar singles out is "The World Before Her" (2:30 p.m. Sept. 22, Castro), a behind-the-scenes look at the Miss India Pageant and the Hindu fundamentalist movement, "capturing the tension between traditional and modern perspectives toward women in today’s India."

The festival's name refers to the spiritual term "third eye," focus for higher consciousness and internal reflection. Besides the upcoming San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival, the organization also produces two minifestivals: 3rd i's Green Eye" (South Asian lens on the environment), and 3rd i's "Queer Eye" (South Asian lens on the LGBT experience).

The small "i" is a reference (not easily discernable) to "independent cinema," the kind of film supported by the organization.

The festival opens with San Francisco-based filmmaker Jon Shenk's "The Island President" (7:15 p.m. Sept 19, Roxie), a documentary about Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, who is engaged in a struggle for the survival of his country against rising sea levels. The film won a major prize at the Toronto International Film Festival last year; Shenk is expected to be at the screening.

An interesting offering is "Decoding Deepak" (6:45 p.m. Sept. 22, Castro), from journalist Gotham Chopra, following his father and spiritual icon Deepak Chopra over a year, separating the man from the myth.

From Bangladesh, director Amit Ashraf's thriller "Runaway" (7:15 p.m. Sept. 21, Roxie) depicts a rickshawalla’s mission to track down men running away from family responsibilities in their villages.

Surjo Deb is on the list of filmmakers attending the festival for the screening of his film from Bengal India titled "Adda (Gossip)" (noon Sept. 23, Roxie), a portrait of Calcutta/Kolkata, where adda is the quintessential Bengali pastime.

For the young crowd (and others, probably), there is Nirpal Bhogal's urban thriller, "Sket" (9:30 Sept. 20, Roxie), which premiered at the London International Film Festival. "Sket" follows a gang of young girls who exact revenge on abusive men in East London's housing estates. The film is said "to boast a rousing hip-hop soundtrack."

Closing night in San Jose screens "Big in Bollywood" (3:30 Sept. 30, Camera 12), by Bill Bowles and Kenny Meehan, charting the rise of Hollywood-based actor Omi Vaidya in Bollywood following the release of the blockbuster "3 Idiots."


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