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Blog Posted in avatar   Jonathan Farrell's Blog

Bollywood in San Francisco, the "3rd i" South Asian Film Festival was at Castro Theater

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By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Oct 14, 2012 in Entertainment
On an unexpected trek through San Francisco's Castro District this past September 23, this reporter was surprised and delighted to know that some of Bollywood makes a visit to "everyone's favorite city." Usually the Castro Theater serves as home to the Silent Film Festival, Film Noir and other annual film events. Yet for me,to see this was a reminder that San Francisco is truly a world city, when it is at its best.
Had I not been pressed for time as I was only passing through The Castro district in route to another engagement, I would have stayed for a movie. This year's festival brought over 20 films from nine different countries, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and yes, including in the USA.
This annual "3rd i" International South Asian Film festival in San Francisco, attracts a major audience and the festival has been in existence for a decade. I guess another reason why I was pleased to learn that Bollywood has come to SF is because of the films themselves.
There is so much of this part of the world that we Westerners know little of. And, the dedication and quality Bollywood films manifest is overwhelming by American standards. It is easy (for some Americans, like me) to have the impression that movies are an "American invention." And, that Hollywood, USA is the center of all there is in movie-making. Yet, right from the earliest beginnings of cinema, films were being produced all over the world. And, Asia with the Indian sub-continent was no exception.
Some years ago I saw a "60 Minutes" feature segment on "Bollywood." I was amazed. Bollywood produces more movies than any other center of movie-making world wide.
Not too long ago back in 2006 I was doing a write up for the Sunset Beacon on Kronos Quartet which at that time had their main office in my neighborhood in the Sunset District. The quartet had then been nominated for a Grammy Award for a contemporary album-CD of world music featuring vocalist Asha Bhosle. Often referred to as the "nightingale of Asia," Bhosle's singing has outsold other singers, including Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Perhaps one of the reasons why Bhosle's recordings are so prolific is because of her work as a "play-back singer."
Vanity Fair compared Bhosle to Marni Nixon, who sang (dubbed) for many actresses in American movies, like Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" and Deborah Kerr in "The King and I."
It was while Bhosle was working as a playback singer that she met and married Bollywood composer R.D. Burman.
After writing that article I was reminded again of Bollywood and at that point, decided to pay a bit more attention to world cinema. And, it was from there that I discovered a movie that had been recommended to me by an acquaintance called, "Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India."
While the story-line was unknown to me, the production was outstanding. It has everything, all-in-one. Music, dancing, drama, acting, suspense, conflict, saga and a bit of intrigue. It opened the door to a movie-world I did not even know existed before.
So, when I saw the marquee on the Castro Theater that Saturday back in September (last month), I thought to myself, "well, its about time!"
I managed to reach one of the coordinators of this year's "3rd i" SFISAFF 2012: "Bollywood and Beyond." Anuj Vaidya said that besides showings at the Castro Theater and the Roxie Theater in the Mission District, Camera 12 Theater in San Jose hosted the closing day of the festival on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Vaidya noted that screening schedule kept him, the staff and many, many volunteers very busy. Some of the premiere sponsors for this year's festival were Macy's and Wells Fargo Bank.
This is a festival I hope to attend next year. Which I am sure will continue to grow and become as well-known as the other high-profile film festivals that The Castro Theater is host to.
For more information about the "3rd i" San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival visit the festival web site.

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