Films from the United Kingdom and India rubbed shoulders with those from Puerto Rico and Mexico capturing the diversity of the New Jersey Indian and International Film Festival
Close to 49 films played to full houses during the two-day New Jersey Indian International Film Festival (NJIIFF) Oct. 19 and 20, proof that a discriminating Indian-American public is hungry for the variety and diversity of the new crop of filmmakers.
The second edition of NJIIFF went off without a hitch at the Regal Hadley Theater in South Plainfield, N.J., indicated Hemant Pandya, the main organizer of the event. In an interview with Desi Talk, Pandya estimated some 700-800 people from around New Jersey and surrounding areas came to see films which represented not only different regions of India, but also some 12 other countries.
“There were films from New York and New Jersey, but also from around the world, U.K., India, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Pakistan, and Iran,” Pandya noted.
Some 250 people filled the theater for the closing ceremony, where among the speakers was Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, and TV Asia’s CEO H.R. Shah. Both promised to continue their support to the festival.
Dr. Parikh who was impressed with the quality of the short films that were showcased at NJIIFF, announced that his channel ITV-Gold will soon be starting a short film slot in association with NJIIFF to play all short films that keep looking for platforms to show their films.
Renowned chef Vikas Khanna’s “The Last Color” and Manjot Singh’s “London Singhs” won big at the festival. Khanna was awarded the Best Director for debut film, and the Best Actress award went to Asqa Siddiqui. The actress shared the award with Tanishka Vishe for her performance in “Vardaniya”.
The two day festival that screened about 49 films from 12 countries including short, feature and documentary movies.
In the Short Films category, actor Anil Charnjeett won for his performance in “Living Idle” and Kirti Kulhari of Pink fame won for her above par performance in the film “Maya”.
“This year’s festival was better than last year’s, and the selection of films was good,” Pandya said when asked about the future he envisioned for NJIIFF. “More and more submissions are coming in. Our target is to count this festival among the top in the country in the next five y ears,” he told Desi Talk.
Pandya noted that while there were several Indian film festivals in the tri-state area, all film festivals had their unique selling point. “Ours is – this is the only one in New Jersey with the word ‘Indian’ in it. And we are combining international films along with Indian films.
Plus, he pointed to the immense diversity. “For example from India, we had Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada films, as well as a Punjabi film from U.K.,” We want to give opportunity also to those film makers who have a very low budge but make very good films.”
Rahul Yadav was awarded the best director for his short film “9+1=1” which deals with the subject of the silent killer — carbon monoxide.
Filmmaker Vikram Razdan’s film “Life is Short” which was also the opening film at the festival, won best Short Film award. Razdan dedicated his awards to Indians in the diaspora, who he felt, bonded through potent platforms like NJIIFF.
The actor of the film from El Salvador, “The Path of Shadows” Leandro Sanchez Arauz, won the Best Actor award for his performance in the drama that centers around the life of a professor.
Seema Biswas starrer film “Abode” bagged the Best Feature Film. Directed by Jaya Jose Raj CL, the film is about a mother living in a remote village, bringing up her two sons after the early death of her husband, who is then abandoned in the ancestral home when her children get married and move out.
Michael Genz’s documentary “Mni Wiconi: Water is Life” on climate change, won the Best Documentary award.
Festival Director Hemant Pandya was very overwhelmed by the kind of support he got from the filmmakers who participated in the festival. He said, “I am going to make sure that NJIIFF will get bigger and even better with each passing year. I am thankful to all the filmmakers and the people of New Jersey for supporting the festival.’’