100 Years of Indian Cinema: 3rd i's 11th Annual South Asian Film Festival Celebrates Women

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Nishtha Jain's Gulabi Gang

In its 11th annual incarnation, the 3rd i International South Asian Film Festival celebrates 100 years of Indian cinema. According to festival director, Anuj Vaidya, "what make's it special for us is that it is also a celebration of the strides made by women in South Asian cinema."

"A century ago, women were absent from the cinema landscape -- both off-screen and on-screen. While things began to change on-screen pretty early (in the 20s and 30s), it has taken a lot longer, more so in the last two decades, for women to be recognized as directors, editors, cinematographers, etc." says Vaidya. "So we are very pleased that 100 Years of Indian Cinema means that our 2013 festival's opening, closing and 2 centerpiece films, all showcase women filmmakers!"

Opening the festival on Wednesday is The Revolutionary Optimists, in which Emmy winning filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen depict a lawyer's power to instill strength and spirit into three children who appear destined to live a marginalized life in their Calcutta slum.

On Thursday's screening, the bravely intimate Mohammed to Maya follows one year in the life of Maya (formerly Mohammed), a Tamil Muslim, as she journeys to Singapore to have sexual reassignment surgery.

A third documentary, Nishtha Jain's thriller Gulabi Gang, closes the festival with an empowering look at the women of Bundelkhand, India; the "Gulabi Gang" is on the cusp of a revolution as they fight against gender violence, caste oppression, and widespread corruption.

3rd i started with a core mission of sharing innovative, experimental, and artistic vision; they also strive to respond to current events through their programming. Last year, the festival focused on Sikh-American voices as a way to address violence against the Sikh community; this year, Vaidya, his co-festival director Ivan Jaigirdar, and their dedicated staff, made sure to address the gender violence that's been making headlines in India.

The Palo Alto stretch of the festival (held a week after the San Francisco screenings) will include a panel discussion on gender violence in South Asia--with scholars/activists from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka -- after the Palo Alto screening of Gulabi Gang. Most of the filmmakers in the program will also be at the San Francisco opening reception and screenings ready to discuss the same.

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The Revolutionary Optimists

The subject requires difficult conversations, but Vaidya also wanted to address gender issues. "[We're addressing them] from a place of positivity and hope, so the films we are showcasing celebrate women and highlight the inspiring movements for change across South Asia and the Diaspora -- offering up a program full of possibilities!"

3rd i International South Asian Film Festival starts on Nov. 6 and continues through Nov. 10, with additional films on Nov. 16 in Palo Alto. San Francisco screenings are held at the New People Cinema and Castro Theatre. See thirdi.org for information on purchasing tickets.

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