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Local Filmmakers, Musicians Win Awards at WorldFest

Team “Semper Fi” and “Inside Out” with two remis at the awards banquet. Left to right: Front row : San Banarje, Emily Rose, Drew Brown, Brian Watson. Back row : Trisha Ray, Omar Scanu


By Kalyani Giri

HOUSTON: The oldest and fiercely independent film festival that recognizes creative excellence in filmmaking honored local musicians and movie-makers at a glittering awards night held at the Marriott Westchase Hotel on April 21, 2012. Well-known Hindustani Classical musicians and teachers Chandrakantha and David Courtney’music video “Jaijaivanti” was the unanimous first choice of a panel of judges, and garnered the Gold Remi Award in the WorldMusic/Techno category at the 45th WorldFest International Film Festival. The video showcased the prodigiously gifted musical duo and a coterie of about 80 of their students and friends performing a piece titled “Tarana” set to Raag Jaijaivanti in Ektal and Teental. The music video was filmed and edited over four months during 2011, and presented against a backdrop of picturesque New Mexico and Colorado. The Courtneys’ are much sought-after gurus in the vocal and tabla disciplines and have performed the world over, been featured regularly on the India’s SaReGaMaPa program, and have produced numerous CDs and several authoritative publications pertaining to the Indian classical arts. Additionally, David Courtney is presently contesting for the seat of Texas Senate.

Dr. David Courtney

Prolific filmmakers from the Indo American community, producer Trisha Ray and director San Banarje, also saw their work feted at the festival that has previously launched the careers of stalwarts in the epic ilk of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ang Lee, Robert Rodriguez, Robert Townsend, Spike Lee, and John Lee Hancock, to name a few. Ray and Banarje’s films, “Semper Fi” and “Inside Out”, produced under the banners of Next Actor Studio and Sri Shirdi Sai Pictures of Houston, and shot in this city, were also the recipients of the Gold Remi Awards. Both films debuted at WorldFest this year. “Semper Fi” was written and directed by Banarje and co-produced by him and Ray. The cast included Omar Scanu, Drew Brown, Brian Watson, Lance Stodghill, and Emily Rose. “Inside Out”, produced jointly by Ray, Banaje, and Brian Stewart, was scripted by Stewart and featured Hollywood actor Joe Estevez, the brother of actor Martin Sheen. This is the third year that the creative duo premiered their movies at WorldFest. In 2010, they took home the Platinum Remi Award for Banarje’s suspense thriller “Bodhisattva”, and a Gold Remi for Ray’s “Sugarbaby”. All of the Ray/Banarje collaborative films are for sale on Amazon.

WorldFest was founded 45 years ago by the award-winning producer/director Hunter Todd. There are 12 major categories and 200 sub-categories. With a packed schedule of several movies that played on different screens at the AMC Studio 30 Theatres, and documentaries and movie shorts, with a liberal dash of symposiums crammed with authoritative talks by renowned filmmakers, the festival ran over ten days from April 13 – April 22. This year’s line-up delivered movie-lovers with a plethora of choices with 15 world premieres from 53 features, the annual Italian Panorama with a comedic flair; a triple whammy from the Russian sector; an Israeli Special Focus with director, Dani Menkin attending for his film “Je T’Aime, I Love you Terminal”, and even a film from Eritrea. Other special highlights were Henry Jaglom’s brand new film, “Just 45 Minutes from Broadway” and the poignant closing film, “America” directed by Sonia Fritz of Puerto Rico. Directors attended 95% of this year’s premieres at WorldFest. Celebrity star in attendance for his opening night film “Smitty” was veteran actor Louis Gossett.

Katleen Haney, WorldFest Artistic and Program Director, told Indo American News that the main focus of the festival is on stories well told.

“In the ten days of WorldFest we can do no more than 60 films a year. We feel that it is impossible to properly emphasize individual films when the festival screening schedule is too large. We try to keep high standards and concentrate only on the very best new American and foreign independent films and honor those,” Haney added.

For more information on WorldFest, visit

To watch the award-winning video “Jaijaivanti”, follow the link http://youtube/8lsEtLbcGQ4. For information about the Ray/Banarje collaboration and movie sales, visit

For more information about David and Chandra Courtney, visit


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