Updated December 13
New York award wins for director Richie Mehta
• Film Siddharth scoops US award
• Director of Siddharth Richie Mehta gets director award too
• Improvised feature, I.D., also wins award
• South Asian International Film Festival, based in New York, celebrates 10 years
• Short film Kush takes prize
DIRECTOR Richie Mehta told www.asianculturevulture.com he is delighted by picking up two awards at the South Asian International Film Festival (Saiff).
On Sunday (December 8), at the closing ceremony his film “Siddharth” was handed two awards, best film and best director following the five-day South Asian film extravaganza in New York.
Indo-Canadian Mehta’s film is a searing tale of pain, loss and dignity in the face of terrible adversity.
The film stars Rajesh Tailang as Dad, Mahendra with Tannishtha Chatterjee, well known to UK audiences from the film “Brick Lane”, as his wife Suman. Tailang, who gives a hypnotically understated but powerful performance as a tailor, also helped with the Hindi dialogue in the film. The cash-strapped Delhi couple, who also have a daughter, send their son away to work in a factory in Punjab to earn some much needed cash before Diwali but he does not return as planned.
Mehta told ACV: “It’s been a great few months showing Siddharth at various festivals around the world, and getting the recognition we’ve received (such as the two awards at Saiff this past week).
“My goal from the beginning was to get viewers to empathise with the protagonist, and recognise the economic and social plight he (Mahendra) was in, while witnessing how he negotiates his situation with dignity and strength, and despite the insurmountable obstacles, finding a way through emotionally.
“It’s a tragedy of the highest order, I feel, and one that I hope sits with audiences, as well as entices them all the way through, with the beauty and kindness (of the character) I’ve tried to depict throughout the film.”
He said he hopes to have news on UK and US distribution deals in the next “few weeks”.
Saiff was celebrating 10 years of existence and closed with a lavish closing awards ceremony that included an appearance from top US-chart topper and British star performer, Jay Sean.
A top awards panel made up of industry big-hitters handed “Siddharth”, which also showed at the London Film Festival in October, the prize over 12 other films, both features and shorts, screened in New York as part of Saiff.
Mehta spoke to us about “Siddharth” at www.asianculturevulture.com before the film screened in London in October. (It’s here http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/siddharth-tragedy-with-tantrums/)
“This intense, boundary-pushing art is representative of why we started this festival in the first place,” said South Asian International Film Festival founder Shilen Amin.
Saiff also screened the Pakistani feature, “Good Morning Karachi”. A special review of the film for www.asianculturevulture.com is here http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/pakistani-women-doing-the-right-thing/
The winning “Siddharth” entry trumped over “The Good Road”, which is India’s official entry to the Oscars and the much-praised “Qissa”, directed by Anup Singh, and an award winner itself in Toronto this year.
The festival’s jury prize went to “I.D”, a film set in Mumbai where a labourer collapses suddenly and the flatmate of the person who hired him to do a job, is left trying to uncover his identity. Partly improvised, it is directed by Kamal KM, who has won awards for his short films and is a graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India.
The short grand jury prize went to “Kush”, Shubhashish Bhutiani’s film about the wave of anti-Sikh violence that engulfed Delhi following the assassination of Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi in 1984.
Galen Rosenthal, programme director of Saiff, said: “Our 2013 competition winners exemplify the innovative storytelling that’s currently coming out of South Asia.
“They truly are proof that the independent film scene in South Asia is only growing stronger.”
The other films screened at Saiff were: Monsoon Shootout, Anima State, Khoon Ltd (short), First Sight, Ankhon Dekhi, Outpost (short), Neighbours (short), Tasher Desh, Tau Saru, (short)
Those on the grand jury were Kelly Edwards, HBO vice-president talent development; Seymour Wishman, president of First Run Features, a film company, and also a novelist and media commentator; Rajendra Roy, from the department of film at the Museum of Modern Art and advisor to Berlinale; Isil Bagdadi, co-founder and president of distribution Cavu Pictures; Emily Russo, co-president Zeitgeist Films; and Deborah Matzner, professor South Asian studies at Welleslley College.
The festival’s principle sponsors were HBO and this year it was also supported by Sana, Air India, Video Dukkan, Citi, Microsoft, The New York Times, and Zee TV, and community-charity partners included Sankara Eye Education and Children of Tomorrow.
Links to www.asianculturevulture stories on films
• Review of Good Morning Karachi
• Monsoon Shootout and London Indian Film Festival
• Tasher Desh
• www.asianculturevulture.com Film archive section http://asianculturevulture.com/portfoliosets/film/