Festival brings top-notch South Asian filmmakers to town

A still from "Titli" about a young man trying to escape his criminal family in Delhi, one of the flagship films of the Seattle South Asian Film Festival's 9th year.
A still from “Titli” about a young man trying to escape his criminal family in Delhi, one of the flagship films of the Seattle South Asian Film Festival’s 9th year.

Now in its ninth year, the Seattle South Asian Film (SSAFF) once again brings a wide array of radical, thought-provoking films to the Puget Sound area. This year there’s narrative and documentary films from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka on everything from human rights, gender, LGBT issues, education, and the environment — and some laughs as well.

Produced by Tasveer, a local South Asian Film and Arts non-profit, SSAFF is the biggest and longest-running film festival of its kind in the region, attracting a more than 3,000-strong audience each year. SSAFF 2014 is a collaboration between Tasveer, the University of Washington Bothell, Cascadia College, and the Cities of Renton and Bothell, with over 40 films spread out over two weeks. All the films have English subtitles.

One of the highlights of the festival comes from Indian film director Kanu Behl, who will be in attendance when his debut feature film Titli screens on Saturday, November 1st, at Cascadia College’s Mobius Hall in Bothell

Behl had two things in mind while making his film: to subvert the star-studded, box-office oriented, idealistic Bollywoodesque notion of family, and to blur the line between the oppressed and the oppressor. Selected for Cannes’ “Un Certain Regard” section, and set in the “badlands of Delhi” — the flipside of the shining India — this film noir follows the life of a young man, Titli (which means butterfly in Hindi), in a desperate attempt to escape from his testosterone-driven crime infested car-jacking of a family.

To put reins on Titli’s fantasies, his ruthless brothers get him married off, hoping also for a financial bargain in the process. But the pretty young bride has a dark agenda up her sleeve and teams up with Titli for an exit strategy from the family. And yet, the harder they try, the more they are caught up in this masculine brotherhood of crooks, wedged inside an eternal circle of crime, reflecting at times the very people that they wish to flee from.

In this must-see film, characters carjack, are hoodwinked by criminal policemen, rough up each other, and then ritualistically brush their teeth to cleanse the filth and dirt that dribbles from their mouths all day.

As a graduate of the Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film Academy, majoring in film direction, director Kanu Behl relies on mostly non-professional actors and documentary style cinematography so as to make his film as far removed from fiction as possible.

The SSAFF screening on Saturday gives Northwest audiences a chance to see Titli before its general release (tickets here). Behl will be on hand to answer questions at the post-film Q&A, and at the “Stories that Travel” panel discussion led by Warren Etheredge earlier that day.

Other festival highlights include:


Nov 1, Mobius Hall, Cascadia College, 12 PM, India, film’s producer in attendance

This Opening Day Film tells the story of unrequited love steeped in caste politics. Set in the state of Maharashtra, the film is about the struggles endured by a teenage boy from a village and focuses on the problem of caste discrimination and dispossession. The film has won many awards at film festivals across the world, including the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Mumbai International Film Festival and the Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film. The film will be followed by a free reception for the audience.

More details and tickets here.


Sulemani Keeda

Nov 1, Mobius Hall, Cascadia College, 5 PM, India, Actor in attendance:

This hilarious bromance comedy tells the tale of two scriptwriters’ dream about writing the ultimate blockbuster Bollywood film. Mainak and Dulal must make a choice between friendship, love, and profession in an unforgiving Mumbai, teeming with wanna-be migrant writers.

More details and tickets here.



Nov 8, Roxy Cinema in Renton, 6 PM, Nepal/India, Producer Jane Charles in attendance:

Sold tells the heartbreaking story of one of the countless girls that are daily hoodwinked into sex-trade across the Indo-Nepal border. What kind of choices must the 12-year old Laskmi make in a world where children are some of the worst victims of disappearance, kidnapping, trafficking, and slavery? Based on Patricia McCormick’s much-admired and award-winning international best-seller, the film bagged the Audience Award at the London Film Festival, and won the second prize, best feature film at Athen International Film Festival.

More details and tickets here


With You, Without You

Nov 9, Roxy Cinema,4 PM, Sri Lanka, Director in attendance

Made by Sri Lanka’s legendary filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage, this Closing Night film charts the intriguing story of two characters coming across each other in the most unusual of circumstances and unraveling the bridgeable/unbridgeable gulf between two communities torn apart by the country’s thirty-year bloody civil war. The film has garnered several awards including the “Best Film Cyclo d”or Vesoul Asian Film Festival” award and whose central female lead, Anjali Patil, has been nominated for the Best Actress Award by the “New York India Film Festival.” The film will be followed by a free wine and cheese reception.

More details and tickets here.  

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