More than 70 films and documentaries focusing on diverse themes of women's issues, gay rights, terrorism and youth will be showcased at the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) in the month of May.
Bringing together artists and filmmakers from the Indian subcontinent to American audiences, the 18th annual NYIFF will run from May 7 to 12 and will showcase 78 films, documentaries and shorts in 11 languages - English, Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Tulu, Konkani, Bengali and Assamese.
The films will "focus on the themes of women's issues, lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), terrorism and children and teenagers grappling with realities of life," Aroon Shivdasani, an Executive and Artistic Director of the not-for-profit arts organisation Indo-American Arts Council, which organises the film festival, told PTI in an interview.
Aseem Chhabra, NYIFF Director and author of veteran actor Shashi Kapoor's biography "Shashi Kapoor: The Householder, the Star", said the festival gives an opportunity to audiences in New York to experience cinematic excellence emanating from the subcontinent. "I am very excited with the line-up this year. There are some wonderful new directors that we have discovered and whose work we will be showcasing this year. The festival is an opportunity for people to experience some brilliant new work coming out of India," and the subcontinent, he said.
The festival will open with the US premiere of Ravi Jadhav's Marathi language film "Nude" and close with the New York premiere of director Hansal Mehta's Rajkummar Rao-starrer biopic on Islamic fundamentalist Omar Saeed Sheikh, "Omerta".
Other highlights of this year's festival include a tribute to late actor Sridevi and Shashi Kapoor, who passed away in 2017 and a retrospective of the films by producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory.
Panel discussions on the film and television market in India and shooting films in New York state have also been planned.
Also premiering at the festival is "Breaking the Bee", a documentary which focuses on the rise and dominance of Indian-American children in spelling bees.
It follows four second-generation NRI children, ages 7 to 14, over the course of a year, or "bee season", as they train to reach and win the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Chhabra, who travels extensively to film festivals across the world, said the NYIFF showcases films that may sometimes get lost and not reach audiences. "It is exciting to get a new crop of films that we have discovered over the months and bring it to the festival," he said.
The festival will also showcase Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi films.
Shivdasani added that the festival has always aimed at being inclusive and diverse, showcasing a variety of work from artists hailing from India and other nations. "The NYIFF was initially an Indian diaspora film festival but it has grown over the years to become a larger festival. We hope to continue showing more relevant films from the subcontinent? on pressing issues to audiences in New York," he said.
Shivdasani called for more government support and financial assistance, in India and the US, for such film festivals, to enable the NYIFF to bring in more artists and movie makers from across the world and help them showcase their work to a global audience.