Films

This year’s conference will host a dedicated Film Screening evening where conference attendees can choose from a curated selection of South Asian films and documentaries.


Saturday, October 19
8:00-11:00 pm

Madison Concourse Hotel & Governor’s Club (2nd Floor)

Some screenings will be followed by an audience Q&A discussion with the filmmakers.

Capitol Ballroom B

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Puththu Saha Piyavaru (Sons and Fathers)

8:00-9:50pm (95 min)
Sumathy Sivamohan
Q&A to follow

The Tamil musician, Rex Periyasamy, is the lead composer of Sinhala films. At the height of his career he marries Kanthi, a Sinhala woman, in keeping with the multicultural milieu of the country’s film industry. They settle down to a life of prosperity, hopes, and dreams for themselves and their son, Lucky, and daughter, Mala. Sons and Fathers turns the creative lens upon the history of the film industry in Sri Lanka and its chequered path, by narrating the story of two generations of musicians who are caught in the whirlpool of political turbulence, the Tamil separatist war in the north and growing anti-Tamil sentiments in the country.

Walking the Walk

9:50-10:2opm (30 min)
Moses Tulasi

Walking the Walk follows Telangana’s first Swabhimana (self-respect) Queer Pride March in Feb 2015 that was held in protest of a brutal murder of a trans woman named Pravallika. This film demonstrates how a collective of activists do more than talk the talk; they set into motion a political movement that celebrates small successes, demands resources for working-class transgender people, stands up to police violence, and allows the community to grieve for lost loved ones. In India, the most visible face to the queer community – the Hijra community – also is the most victimised: rape, violence, discrimination, and even death are motifs of their daily existence. To a lesser degree, the other transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer-identified Indians go through similar ordeals. The film also brings attention to these gruesome acts of violence to raise awareness within the mainstream society. Walking as a form of protest against discrimination and exclusion has a long history in India. Dr. Ambedkar’s historical “Mahad Satyagraha” walk in 1927 protested caste-based discrimination at one of its fundamental levels: access to water. Since then countless anti caste and anti colonial marches have galvanised the masses to fight for freedom – but these struggles must be kept vitally alive today. It is important to not only fight the British colonial residue in the form of an archaic Sec. 377 (that criminalizes homosexual behaviour) but also to fight the deep rooted stigma in the society and bring it to understand and accept alternate genders and sexualities. A public walk aims to do just that. Queer Indians have learned not to hesitate to talk the talk. This film shows how they also walk the walk.

1984, When The Sun Didn't Rise

10:20-11:17pm (57 min)
Teenaa Kaur

The film is a narrative of three Sikh women living in Widows Colony wherein they lost their homes and men in the violent killings of 1984 when over  2733 Sikhs were killed in Delhi and over 30,000 in India. It is based on the lives of women and how they negotiate their memories on day to day basis while still earning their livelihoods. The socio-political times are visited through the eyes of the women. I have done first hand research and it has taken me 5 years to make the film  and it has traveled to prestigious film festivals the details of which are in the Dossier here.

Naked Wheels

11:17-11:46pm (29 min)
Rajesh James

The film is about the journey undertaken by a diverse group of people comprising males, females and transgenders across South India in a truck. The film seeks to explore many compelling thoughts on life, love, and gender. The film hopes for a society where none have to crush their desires because the majority does not understand it…

Wisconsin Ballroom

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Where Do The Children Play

8:00-9:18pm (63 min)
Arvind Rajagopal
Q&A to follow

On the night of December 2, 1984, an accident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, released at least 30 tons of a highly toxic gas called methyl isocyanate, as well as a number of other poisonous gases. The pesticide plant was surrounded by shanty towns, leading to more than 600,000 people being exposed to the deadly gas cloud that night. The gases stayed low to the ground, causing victims throats and eyes to burn, inducing nausea, and many deaths. Estimates of the death toll vary from as few as 3,800 to as many as 16,000, but government figures now refer to an estimate of 15,000 killed over the years. Toxic material remains, and 30 years later, many of those who were exposed to the gas have given birth to physically and mentally disabled children. For decades, survivors have been fighting to have the site cleaned up, but they say the efforts were slowed when Michigan-based Dow Chemical took over Union Carbide in 2001. Human rights groups say that thousands of tons of hazardous waste remain buried underground, and the government has conceded the area is contaminated.

Salam - The First ***** Nobel Laureate

9:18-10:33pm (75 min)
Zakir Thaver

Salam – The First ****** Nobel Laureate’ is a feature length documentary about Abdus Salam, the first Muslim to win the Nobel prize in Physics for the Standard Model—a holy grail in 20th century physics that postulated the Higgs Boson (‘The God Particle’) and was a step towards fulfilling Einstein’s dream of unifying the laws of nature. The film captures his dramatic and ultimately tragic life’s journey—from a small village in Pakistan to worldwide scientific acclaim—and his fraught relationship with his homeland, where he faced persecution for being a member of the “heretical” Ahmadiyya sub sect of Islam. Salam’s legacy continues to be at the center of hard-fought culture wars in Pakistan between progressive segments and the religious right wing in a fundamental argument to define the constitutional nature of the state. At the cross roads between science and religion, Salam’s story has huge relevance to contemporary Pakistan and the Muslim world beyond.

Chidra

10:33-11:13pm (40 min)
Arik Moran

Every couple of years, Ram Nath leaves his fields and buffaloes to play the part of human sacrifice in a hitherto undocumented mysterious ritual of purification in the Himalayan Valley of Kullu, North India. During the ritual, Ram Nath transforms from a highland peasant into the master of ceremonies, a powerful redeemer who cuts holes (chidra) in the fabric of society, collecting sins into a cosmic trap that only he can operate. Chidra follows Ram Nath through the ritual, revealing how men, gods, and mediums handle the dangerous substance of actions (karma) at the frontier of the Hindu cultural sphere.

University A/B

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The Journey Within (the Coke Studio origin story)

78 min
Mian Adnan Ahmad
Q&A to follow

The ‘Coke Studio’ Origin Story – In a post 9/11 Pakistan faced with challenges of war and conflict, a quest for self-identity leads the inspirational journey of a music show to help reclaim the rich and vast musical heritage of this region. In doing so it has become one of the biggest music initiatives from this side of the world, bringing together unique cultural experiences and genres, including but not limited to folk, sufi, rock, pop and rap music. We explore this important period in music by discovering the show from its humble beginnings, living through its spirit to reach the heart of the experience, as artists unify eastern and western sounds to make music that will resonate across the globe; impacting all involved and planting the seeds for an ongoing inward reflection towards who we are as individuals and as a people

In Thunder, Lightning, and Rain

9:33-10:13pm (40 min)
Rajesh James

In Thunder Lightning and Rain depicts the endurance of three women against their ostracisation in the society. The three women- a footballer, a fisher and a cremator-tells their sagas of woes and weal, resistance and endurance in the film. These three contemporary Shakespearean witches are etched against the carnivalesque urban space of Fort Kochi. They visit the masculine space of carnival. The camera intently listens to them with an intense zeal to film their identity.

Sweet Tassa: Music and Tradition of the Indian Caribbean Diaspora

10:13-11:13pm (60 min)
Chris Ballengee

I am an ethnomusicologist working on Indian music in the Caribbean, largely focusing on tassa drumming in Trinidad & Tobago. I am nearing completion of a new film about tassa and work very closely with a number of professional tassa bands.

University C/D

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The Forgotten People of Kashmir

8:00-9:25pm (70 min)
Anne Leigh Cooper
Q&A to follow

A documentary following the filmmaker going undercover into a conflict zone called Jammu & Kashmir where she documents the human rights abuses that are being committed against the people of Kashmir. A human rights organization under constant threat shows us a glimpse of what is like to fight for justice and a voice in a place forgotten by the world. A deeper look into the suffering of the people of Kashmir who have been enduring human rights violations for the past several decades. Anne Leigh Cooper and her crew go undercover in the conflict zone of Jammu and Kashmir to finally give a voice to the people.

On Hands

9:25-10:50pm (70 min)
Lajwanti Waghray
Q&A to follow

In a time when our experiences of the world are mediated through technology, this poetic film brings our attention to an essential way of experiencing it, by using our hands. To give it some perspective, this film is like

Pursuit of Silence meets Koyaanisqatsi but within an immersive auditory experience. By documenting their work with hands, we explore the satisfaction it provides, and how they are redefining what success means.
A simple change in the focus of our daily processes can have a positive effect, and we are not thoroughly exploring it. Calling attention to the work of hands is even more relevant today, as we are surrounded by a virtual world.

Two Flags

10:50-11:55pm (65 min)
Pankaj Rishi Kumar

‘Two Flags’ chronicles the life and politics of a quaint French town: Pondicherry. As the 4600 Tamil French people belonging to the Tamil ethnic community, gear up for the French Presidential elections (2017) the film explores the idea of identity, citizenship and home in the post colonial era. ‘Two Flags’ is a chronicle of a legacy that is not easily evident, but manages to shine through ordinary events and occasional mishaps, and which brings together this tiny population in celebration, in grief, in anxiety and in serene acceptance


Vivek / ‘Reason’ by Anand Patwardhan
Sunday, October 20
8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Capitol Ballroom (2nd Floor, Madison Concourse Hotel)
Followed by Q&A with filmmaker Anand Patwardhan


Those who witnessed the scientific spirit fostered by the Enlightenment would scarcely believe that over 400 years later, Faith would still have an upper hand over Reason.
Today as technologically advanced nations still debate the merits of Creationism and Evolution, the developing world falls prey to blind faith and religious war.
Everywhere privatization and a rush to corner ever-depleting natural resources has catapulted corporates and their extreme right wing storm-troopers into power.

With the collapse of egalitarian values, democracy itself is under siege. That we, the temporarily comfortable, rarely notice, is because an embedded media controls both information and entertainment. We see what they want us to see and quickly tire of seeing anything that matters.

Reason takes us to a macrocosm – India, the world’s largest democracy. Its eight chapters are a chilling account of how murder and mind control are being applied to systematically dismantle secular democracy in a country which once aspired not just to Liberty, Egalite and Fraternity, but to lead the post-war world out of its mindless spiral of violence and greed.

And yet the battle for Reason is not lost. Even as Brahminism (a priest ordained caste hierarchy that withheld knowledge from the working castes) drapes itself in the national flag and sends out its hit squads, resistance has not ended.  For every brave rationalist gunned down or driven to suicide, many more take up the mantle.

Reason is then both a warning and a promise.