Six days, 24 films.
The 2019 South Asian Film Festival of Montréal (SAFF) is back for its 9th edition, kicking off the first of two consecutive weekends of films from South Asia and beyond, on Oct. 25 at Concordia University’s J.A. de Sève cinema.
The SAFF aims to bridge geographical and cultural distances through film, and the festival itself is a celebration of filmmakers from the Indian subcontinent, as well as diaspora filmmakers all over the world. This year’s film selection includes both fiction and documentary, ranging from shorts to feature-length films. The broad thematic range covers subjects of activism, aging, women’s rights and more.
“We try to include films from as many countries as possible and also in as many languages as possible,” said TK Raghunathan, President of Kabir Centre for Arts & Culture, the non-profit parent organization of SAFF. India, Afghanistan, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan are a few of the countries of origin appearing in the credits.
The popular Diaspora Panel will continue this year, with filmmakers, academics and activists from the diaspora present after selected films to discuss their work with the audience. Among this years panelists is Thomas Waugh, Professor Emeritus at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, English Professor Jill Didur, and Yasmin Jiwani, Communication Studies professor and Research Chair in Intersectionality, Violence & Resistance at Concordia.
“In the past few years, audiences have been incredibly responsive and we are gaining quite a following in Quebec,” said Dipti Gupta, Director of the SAFF. “We have managed to bring films for all ages and from different parts of South Asia.”
Along with a selection of new films, the 9th annual festival is ushering in a few changes to the program as well; this year, each film will be subtitled in both English and French, and a new section called “Cinema Of Art” has been added to highlight films about art and artists. The festival will close with a screening of Neel Akasher Neechey, to celebrate the legacy of its director Mrinal Sen, who died last December.
Here’s a preview of what’s in store, and if you like what you see, check out the full list of films here.
WEEKEND 1 (Oct. 25-27)
Oct. 25 @ 6:30 p.m.
“In modern Mumbai of glass skyscrapers, the young widow Ratna works as a maid for Ashwin, a young man from a wealthy home, who apparently has everything it takes for a comfortable life. On the other hand, Ratna has one thing above all: the desire to work for a better life and to realize her dream of becoming a fashion designer. When Ashwin’s carefully arranged storybook wedding bursts, Ratna seems to be the only one who understands Ashwin’s deep melancholy. Ashwin falls in love with the housemaid and discovers in her a strong-willed and sensual woman who is ready to stand up for her dreams.”
The Soundman Mangesh Desai
Oct. 26 @ 6:30 p.m.
“Mangesh Desai, one of the top ten sound mixing engineers of the world according to the New York Times, was a colourful character whose understanding of the craft and technique was unparalleled. The film narrates the fascinating story of how he created sounds for iconic movies such as Sholay, Pakeeza, Kabhi Kabhi and many others. His dynamic range of work goes from the artistic extremes of Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal’s art films to Manmohan Desai’s commercial films. He could blend himself according to the needs of the subject, the film and the director, but no one could proceed without receiving his approval and availability.”
Oct. 27 @ 12:00 p.m.
“The Orphanage is a beautifully photographed, quietly methodical portrait of 1989 Kabul and tells the story of young Quodrat rounded up by the cops and sent to a public orphanage. The movie was shot in Tadjikistan, mixing natural splendors with the starker institutional interiors. A grainy look makes the film feel like it was actually made in the 80s, adding to its historical authenticity. When, at the end, the orphanage risks tumbling along with the Soviet regime, you’re left with the harrowing feeling that for Quodrat and his friends, it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
Oct. 27 @ 6:30 p.m.
“Karachi, Pakistan. 24 April 2015. A car stops at a red-light. Inside are two women: Sabeen and her mother Mahenaz. Two men on a motorcycle stop and open fire. Sabeen dies on the spot; her mother gets wounded but survives. Moments before she was killed, Sabeen Mahmud, founder and director of the non-profit cultural institution Peace Niche, had hosted a discussion on the unexplained and ongoing disappearances of more than 20,000 activists and civilians in the country. Sabeen had been warned and advised to cancel the event but she went ahead insisting, “someone’s got to do this!” In the wake of the killing, the director tiptoes ”After Sabeen“ following her mother and friends to record not only their memories and grief but also their ongoing impetus to continue Sabeen’s work.”
WEEKEND 2 (Nov. 1-3)
Nov. 1 @ 6:30 p.m.
“A mini-bus is on a journey across the mountains to Kabul. Each person on the bus has a reason to make this journey. An old man is traveling to give a turkey to his grandchild, as his last wish before dying. However, the main road is blocked by insurgents. They decide to use an alternative road, which is not very secure, and there is still the possibility of getting caught by insurgents.”
Shit one Carries*
Nov. 2 @ 2:30 p.m.
“Avinash, a Silicon Valley engineer, returns to India to care for his bedridden father. Unlike the warmth his father shares with his professional caregivers, the father and son’s relationship is prickly. One afternoon when the usual attendant is unavailable, Avinash confronts awkward intimacies for which he was never prepared.”
Untying the Knot*
Nov. 2 @ 2:30 p.m.
“Untying the Knot tells the powerful story of Rumana Monzur, the blinded survivor of a domestic attack, and her courageous pursuit of a career in Canada. A powerful exploration of marriage in Bangladesh, the film also follows three women in Dhaka as they struggle with abuse and social pressure, laying bare the sacrifices made by women in the name of marital expectation.”
* Post-screening discussion led by this year’s Diaspora panelists.
The Sweet Requiem
Nov. 3 @ 12:00 p.m.
“When a young, exiled Tibetan woman unexpectedly sees a man from her past, long-suppressed memories of her traumatic escape across the Himalayas are reignited and she is propelled on an obsessive search for reconciliation and closure.”
Tickets for each film are available online, with the option to purchase an all-access festival pass for one or both weekends.
Feature still from the film Sir