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Atlanta’s First Annual Indo-American Film Festival Inaugurated

December 2006
Atlanta’s First Annual Indo-American Film Festival Inaugurated

Nagesh Kukunoor's Dor screened, short film festival introduced.

Reels of Rajasthani desert ushered in Atlanta's first annual Indo-American Film Festival organized by the Indo-American Film Society (IAFS), as well as IMAGE (Independent Media Artists of Georgia, Etc.), the Indo-American Arts Council Inc, and the social entertainment network Kaneva Inc. Held between November 10th to 14th across three venues - Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, the festival attracted a large audience.

The desert landscape featured in the opening night screening of acclaimed filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor's Dor. Audience members left few seats to spare and others stood in the aisles to watch this latest production from this former Atlanta resident and Georgia Tech graduate. Viewers kept their seats through a blurred projection (due to technical limitations of the venue), and only rose for a standing ovation. This was followed by a post-screening Q&A session with the director.

The very next evening, director Aditya Bhattacharya personally presented his feature length comedy, "Dubai Return". Other feature length films screened at the venues included Corporate, Khosla ka Ghosla, Pyar ke Side Effects and Quarter Life Crisis. The five-day festival showcased 35 films and also featured other film genres such as shorts, documentaries, animation and narratives, providing exposure for independent filmmakers in the local and international arena.

Dunwoody resident Sanjib Gupta, who came to see the Oscar-nominated short The Little Terrorist, commented that the festival screened "... a lot of good movies that aren't easily available to rent on VHS or DVD."

IAFS also partnered with entertainment media-sharing company Kaneva, Inc. to host an online short film contest, accepting submissions from filmmakers the world over, the central theme being Indian culture or topics related to the Non-Resident Indian diaspora. Chris Klaus, founder of Kaneva Inc, was present at one screening of short films to address the audience. "This is a great partnership and we plan to build on it over time," said AIAFF Director Ani Agnihotri, referring to the IAFS and Kaneva collaboration.

The short films were available online for user voting and were also judged by a jury of film experts. They included Linda Burns, an Atlanta-based award winning commercial producer and independent film maker; Deepti Naval, a New York artist highly achieved in everything from poetry to filmmaking; Shonali Bose a filmmaker and writer who received high accolades for her work; and Anurag Kashyap, an incredibly successful screenwriter known for Indian films such as Water, Paanch and Black Friday.

The winners by jury verdict, announced at the closing night of the film festival, were "In Gandhi's Footsteps", directed by Oystein Rakkenes of Norway, "Jhum Jham Jhum" directed by Praveen Morchhale and "Pudchya Warshi Lavkar Ya", directed by Prashant Kadkol. The winning submissions according to user votes were "Ouch", directed by Aron Gaudet, "The Fortune Teller", directed by Tejaswi Kadam and Sudhir Kadam, and "Jhum Jham Jhum", directed by Praveen Morchhale.

"This contest marks the very first time in the film world that an online competition was organized for Indian-American short films", adds Ani. The first year of the contest has been hailed a remarkable success.

Ani Agnihotri, also the founding president of Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, has been instrumental in successfully organizing the Film Festival of India at the High Museum for the past five years. However, that Festival was only aimed at screening the works of established directors, and there arose a need to bring independent films from India to the mainstream. This was the genesis of the Indo-American Film Festival, the goal being to act as a catalyst for independent talent to be bought to the fore.

Like all inaugural ventures, the organizing committee at the film festival did face some challenges relating to various aspects of the event but pulled off a great set of screenings to ensure a good start for future efforts. "The event will be more firmed up and 2-3 times bigger in magnitude next year," assures Ani.

IAFS, based in Atlanta, is already planning for the 2007 Atlanta Indo-American Film Festival and plans to host this event on an annual basis henceforth. Event details describing submission policies and acceptance dates will be released in the spring of 2007. IAFS is also planning the online short films contest with Kaneva for next year. To learn more about IAFS or watch the short films submitted, visit www.iafs.us.

~ Ruksana Hussain with additional reporting by Supraja Narasimhan

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