3rd Annual Indian Film Festival of Houston Promises Stellar Line-up of Movies, Celebrities
By Kalyani Giri
HOUSTON: The independent film, I Am Kalam, that is earning critical acclaim at festivals worldwide as an inspirational masterpiece, will be the opening night feature presentation when the Indian Film Festival of Houston (IFFH) kicks off its third consecutive fest on September 20. The movie that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit is one of twelve diligently selected films that will screen over four days at the Studio Movie Grill at Town and Country Boulevard, the official theatre for the festival. An estimated 3,000 guests are expected to attend the various screenings of feature films, shorts and documentaries that culminates in a glittering Awards Night Ceremony and Reception to be held at the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Sorella, located at the City Center, September 24.
Sutapa Ghosh, an avant-garde filmmaker (Titli, Utsav) in her own right, and the visionary Founder/Director of IFFH three years ago, is determined to institutionalize the festival as an annual event, which in turn will draw businesses and create jobs in this city.
“My goal is to make companies recognize Houston as a viable place to make movies and commercials, and I see in our near future, studios being built here,” said Ghosh. She hopes to create awareness in the mainstream of how diverse India really is through the IFFH.
“I believe that many non-Indians have no idea that there’s so much going on in Indian filmmaking. While we’re proud of Bollywood, we are way beyond Bollywood in the rich genres of independently-made and regional films being made,” added Ghosh, who came to this country as a student with $500 in one hand and a sitar in the other. Today she has come a long way from the Masters Degree she earned. Ghosh has a panel of diverse and distinguished judges that help with selecting only the best films that include Bill Megalos, Los Angeles-based filmmaker and cinematographer, and Uma da Cunha, India-based authority on all films from India. Rick Ferguson, Executive Director of the Houston Film Commission, and philanthropist/socialite Carolyn Farb sit on the Advisory Committee of IFFH. Big name sponsors include HEB, Momentum Jaguar, the Houston Arts Alliance, and Thompson Reuters, a database company.
Preceding the opening night feature film is a by-invitation-only exclusive cocktail reception with Indian dance and music, with an area of the City Center plaza blocked off for the festivities. This year, the red carpet awards event will inaugurate the spectacular new ballroom facility at the Hotel Sorella with Bollywood/Indie actors, directors and industry leaders in attendance; a special chef will prepare a delicious four-course meal paired with appropriate wines. In previous years guests included Adoor Gopalakrishnan who is hailed as the Satyajit Ray of the South, actresses Manisha Koirala and Deepti Naval, and singer Sonu Nigam. Ghosh hinted that this year, actor Gulshan Grover, who has a starring role in I Am Kalam, may be present at the event. Other actors she invited have yet to respond, she said.
Out of 82 submissions, the twelve films that will screen include Love, Wrinkle-free, Chatrak (the only official entry from India to the Cannes Film Festival this year), Fatakra (directed by Houston-based director Soham Mehta), and It’s Cricket, No? that follows the Indian National Blind Cricket Team as they chase their dream to be the greatest national side India has ever produced. A couple of years ago, the short film Kavi that was shown at the festival went on to garner a student Oscar for its young director Greg Helvey, while Udaan that showed last year bagged top honors at Cannes, as well as the Filmfare and Stardust awards in India. All films made in Indian languages have subtitles and the movie directors will be available to answer questions following feature presentations.
This year Ghosh has introduced a scriptwriting competition for the best script, the prize for which is $10,000. Deadlines are strict and interested writers could browse the festival’s website for details. Ghosh is confident that the festival will grow and attract a wider audience of film buffs and the best of moviemakers. She wants to keep the standard high, never compromising on quality. Deeply spiritual, she believes in what she calls the three P’s.
“I totally believe in perseverance, patience and purity; it’s served me well in the past,” she added.
For more information and for a calendar of events, visit www.iffhinc.org.