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Navigating the South Asian diaspora in film

by Ashley Fish Robertson November 6, 2018
Navigating the South Asian diaspora in film

Montreal welcomes eighth annual South Asian Film Festival

Outside of Montreal’s Pepsi Forum, it is increasingly rare to see international films in the city. Hollywood dominates the film industry, leaving little to no room for other diasporas. Hosted by the Kabir Centre for Arts and Culture and running for its eighth edition, the South Asian Film Festival showcased South Asia’s best cinematography and presented films in various languages from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4  in Montreal.

“We are committed to showcasing new artistic work that has South Asian content that fosters discussions and explores the world we inhabit,” said festival director Dipti Gupta. “The festival is a platform for filmmakers worldwide whose films have a focus on South Asia and its diaspora.” The festival first began in 2011 and has been an annual non-profit event since.
As festival director, Gupta said she had the honour to select for the featured films. This allowed her to meet many influential people and draw diverse audiences.

The South Asian Film Festival is the only festival in Quebec that highlights the South Asian region. The festival’s focus on this area of the world allows audiences to understand the way of life in these countries. Overall, Gupta said she hopes the festival sheds light on the art, culture, politics, economics and social issues of this region.

“While the films may be from South Asia, the themes are often relevant to the entire world,” Gupta noted.

Last year, the festival introduced a diaspora panel where filmmakers are able to share their work as well as interact with the audience. According to Gupta, this panel encourages local filmmakers and film students in the audience to seek out stories that are important to them and touch on subjects that have not been encountered in film before. This year, four filmmakers discussed their work as well as their journeys in the industry.

In addition to her work in the festival, Gupta has taught a Bollywood course at Concordia for 12 years. She has also been teaching a course on diaspora and filmmaking since last September. “These courses are very much linked to the idea that I came up with last year to add a diaspora panel to the festival,” Gupta said.

Dant (Teeth) focuses on the unconventional relationship between a hungry street child and a medical student who cross paths.


The festival showcased 27 unique films that deal with the theme of diaspora in thought-provoking ways for audiences across generations. Among these was the seven-minute long Bengali film Dant (Teeth), directed by journalist and scriptwriter, Iqbal Hossain Chowdhury. Dant (Teeth) is Chowdhury’s first film and focuses on the unconventional relationship between a hungry street child and a medical student who cross paths.

Gupta said she and her team recognise that the festival’s audience is diverse and hope to keep improving every year. “Our staff always makes sure that there is something for each palate and age group and that we can draw an intergenerational audience for the festival,” she said.

The festival will continue in Saguenay from Nov. 16 to 18 in collaboration with Bibliothèques Saguenay. For tickets, visit www.saffm.centrekabir.com/en/2018-edition/films-saguenay.

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