NEW YORK – The 18th New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) opened up at Village East Cinema on Monday, May 7, with Ravi Jhadav’s Marathi film “Nude.”
Out of 250 films watched, festival director Aseem Chhabra, executive and artistic director Aroon Shivdasani, Satish Kolluri and Giri Mohan Conneti chose 78 films to screen at this year’s NYIFF and they are in 11 different languages, including English, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Tulu, Konkani, Bengali and Assamese, with most being New York, U.S. or North American premieres.
The festival consists of feature films as well as series of short ones and documentaries made in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, the UK, U.S. and Canada.
“We are showing better films at the NYIFF each year and not only is that helping to build an awareness of the Indian diaspora in New York City but has also been a wonderful way for people to connect to India. People are more aware of the reality of the country now; its rich, its poor and its middle-class,” Shivdasani told Desi Talk in a phone interview taken earlier.
“We love showing these (independent) films and surprise the audience. If I see a film and like it then I make sure someone else in the committee sees it too so we can show it to a large audience,” Chhabra added.
The NYIFF is the oldest and most prestigious film festival in the city and is run by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded by Shivdasani 20 years ago.
“My baby turns 20 this year and it is time to let go,” she said at the press conference announcing her retirement. “The purpose of the IAAC was to help spread awareness of Indian culture and artists as they were invisible 20 years ago.”
The IAAC not only runs the NYIFF but they also run other diaspora related festivals throughout the year, including dance, music, art and literature.
Although the NYIFF started on May 7 with a red carpet followed by the screening of the film “Nude,” a press conference was held at the Consulate of India in New York on May 4 and a gala was held on the Cornucopia Majesty yacht on May 6, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of IAAC and 18 years of NYIFF.
“I had heard so much about this festival when I was in India, but now that I am in New York I am not sure how many films I will be able to see,” Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty said at the press conference.
NYIFF is also screening “Shakespeare Wallah” and “Heat and Dust” as a tribute to the late Shashi Kapoor as well as “English Vinglish” in honor of Sridevi who passed away on February 24.
The festival centerpiece is a Konkani film called “Juze,” about a slum landlord in Goa, and will close with the screening of veteran director Hansal Metha’s “Omerta,” a film about Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who is played by actor Rajkummar Rao.