Friday, October 22, 2010

Good Mix in Southeast Asian Intl. Film Festival

Cockfighting, above, is but one event contributing to a bad day in “Anima and Persona (Aaranya Kaandam).” Kalki Koechlin, middle, as "That Girl in the Yellow Boots." Below, Rajat Kapoor cannot get any in "With Love to Obama." Photos from Capital Film Works, Ashok Pandey/Revel Films and Anurag Kashyap Films, respectively.

EVERYONE'S having a bad day. An aging Don loses his libido. His young mistress has had enough. The idiot errand boy wants to grow up. The head henchman gets ambitious. Two villagers get greedy. Another gang gets the wrong idea. And there's cocaine, cock-fighting and blood too. “Quote, unquote.”

Meanwhile, Paan Singh Tomar owned the steeplechase competition for seven years. The records he set during the Indian National Games stood for years. This brought him great fame, but not as great as that which resulted from his run as a notorious outlaw.

Here are rather interesting synopses of “Anima and Persona (Aaranya Kaandam” and Paan Singh Tomar, respectively. They are two of the 21 feature-length and short films to be screened during the 7th Annual Southeast Asian International Film Festival next week at the SVA Theater in New York.

As Southeast Asia becomes more industrialized and a major trade/investment corridor and as quality of life improves, giving rise to a robust middle class, these changes are being reflected in cinema. This year, SAIFF is presenting films that address previously taboo issues such as criticism of social/economic issues “Asshole” (“Gandu”), as well as sexuality/desire (“I am 24”) and political satire “Autumn” (“Harud”).

The aforementioned are among an interesting roster in four categories: Documentary, Dramatic, HBO Short Film and Spectrum. Panel discussions are in play, too. Most of the films address relatable issues, particularly for those in mondern-day devloped/developping cultures. “Slackistan” is a state of mind for overprivileged do-nothings who for the first time in their sorry lives are forced to wax self-reflectively as things begin to fall apart. In “The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project,” a young man who makes his money coding HTML inadvertently finds his true calling, deals with unrequited love and in the process has transcendent experiences.

Ruth Edscer’s desperate search for her estranged father takes her into Mumbai’s political Sodom and Gomorrah in the opening night selection (27 Oct.), “That Girl in the Yellow Boots.” Newcomer Kalki Koechlin has received good notices for her performance in this thriller, which has shown in both Venice and Toronto. Epic “West is West” closes the festival (2 Nov.). In this sequel to director Andy De Emmomy’s “East is East” about the Khan clan, one of the many lessons that becomes clear as the narrative moves from metropolitan England to rural Pakistan is that father does not always know best, nor does he always do best.

Commanding its share of buzz is “With Love to Obama.” Among the seven films making their world premiere at SAIFF, it chronicles the experiences of Om Shashtri, a U.S. businessman of Indian descent. He is twice a victim. First, of The Great Recession when the bank holds his house hostage, then by similarly afflicted kidnappers in his native India who hold him hostage because they believe he’s still rolling in dough. Here, too, is a message for the current U.S. chief executive. “With Love to Obama” has great potential for both laughter and tears.

In the festival’s competition arm, awards will be presented in several categories: Grand Jury Award, Jury Award for feature films, Best Director and Best Short Film. Films in all categories are eligible for the Audience Award for Best Feature and Best Short Film.

Visit for more information about the 7th Annual Southeast Asian International Film Festival, including ticket sales, schedule and venues.

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