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Tasveer South Asian Film Festival: Unapologetically South Asian

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Photo courtesy of TSAFF
Photo courtesy of TSAFF

At the launch party on Oct. 7 for the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (TSAFF), the largest South Asian film festival in North America, Indo-Afro-Cuban music filled the room as the band Anjuman created the background for conversations among attendees, mostly dressed in beautiful multicolored saris and other traditional South Asian clothing. The most common question overheard is, "What are you here for?" Actors, writers, directors, and others were all seeking to find out what part each person was playing in supporting TSAFF.

Photo courtesy of TSAFF  

Tasveer is a South Asian social justice/arts nonprofit organization whose mission is to "inspire social change through thought-provoking South Asian films, literature, and storytelling." It specializes in uplifting South Asian voices through events like TSAFF, whose 17th run is this year.

As guests enjoyed delicious samosas and more Desi food by Lari Adda, some stepped away to take red-carpet photos in front of a Tasveer backdrop. When the music faded, attendees were called to sit down for a presentation. The speakers on stage boasted "24 features and 79 short films spanning 17 countries and 15 languages, including 12 world premieres and 24 US premieres." They also shared this year's theme, "Unapologetically South Asian."

Photo courtesy of TSAFF  

Several trailers were shown, one for the opening night gala film, Four Samosas, about a wannabe rapper and friends who devise a diamond heist in hopes of stopping a wedding. Another was for the centerpiece film, Goldfish, in which a daughter contends with the challenge of reconnecting with her mother, who is in the early stages of dementia.

The most exciting trailer was for the documentary All That Breathes, the Tasveer Emerald Showcase. The first film to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Cannes Documentary Prize, it's a story of two brothers in New Delhi committed to protecting a bird called a black kite.

Later the new Tasveer programming director, queer cctivist Lucy Jane Mukerjee, came on stage to introduce the LGBTQIA+ Spotlight, ten shorts that feature various stories, including falling for someone in a lower caste and the discrimination that faces the Gay/Trans and Muslim communities. Several online panels on topics like "Decolonizing Sexuality" and "Protecting Trans Perspectives" will also be presented.

Mukerjee is a Queer Indian with citizenship in the UK and US. Her expertise is in "the intersection between activism and the arts," and her work amplifies the voices of South Asians and the Queer community. During her speech, it was clear that she's significantly devoted to this cause.

"It was a joy to work with the passionate programming team to review a record number of festival submissions. It's my hope that this 17th edition of TSAFF becomes a magnet that connects our communities with a celebration of excellence in South Asian storytelling," she said.

It was also heartwarming to hear that Tasveer designed its 2022 mascot as an homage to nonbinary identities. As stated on the website, "To mark the 20th anniversary of Tasveer, we were inspired to look back at the organization's legacy of social justice and LGBTQIA+ storytelling, and also look beyond the gender binary to celebrate the rich history of nonbinary identity in South Asian countries."

Later in the evening, a special guest was announced. Director Kashif Pasta strode onto the stage and spoke about his excitement for TSAFF. "Film festivals are not about a laptop connected to a projector playing a movie; it's about the people," he said.

He followed his speech by showing his short, Desi Standard Time Travel. It was a fantastic piece that was both emotional and hilarious. In the film, a new dad is grieving the loss of his father and the words that had never been said between them. With the help of a life insurance policy that conveniently provides time travel, the protagonist finds his chance to speak to his father in the past.

Photo courtesy of TSAFF  

This will be the first in-person TSAFF since the beginning of the pandemic. Having learned from the recent past of social distancing, the festival will be a hybrid, offering both in-person and virtual showings. No matter your schedule, you can experience these brilliant pieces live or online.

Find out what it means to be unapologetically South Asian.

The festival will begin on November 3 with its opening night gala and will be followed by ten days of in-person programming. The virtual programming will run November 7—20. Passes can be purchased now at https://tasveerfestival.org/. Or subscribe to the virtual showings at https://watch.tasveer.tv/.