3rd I, the S.F. International South Asian Film Festival, is celebrating its 20th season this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23-25, in the Castro and Roxie theaters, and later streaming online. It is the oldest and largest such festival in the U.S.
Just as its local cousin “Berlin & Beyond” represents films not only from Germany, 3rd I’s “Bollywood & Beyond” takes audiences well beyond Bollywood’s song and dance.
The festival offers narratives, indie films and music documentaries from South Asia and its diaspora, including titles from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, France, U.K., Canada and the U.S.
There is more to the name than just a reference to the third eye symbolizing a state of enlightenment in Indian spiritual traditions, the ajna (or brow) chakra.
Festival Artistic Director Ivan Jaigirdar explains: “Our name, 3rd I, came from different areas of thinking, but one was, of course, for internal reflection. But it was also for aspects of a third gender, third cinema, Third World. So it had a playful meaning around the idea of third eye, but from a more sort of constructive and critical perspective too.”
The festival’s opening film, on Friday, Sept. 23, in the Roxie Theater, is Ravi Kapoor’s “Four Samosas,” taking place in Little India in Artesia, California, tapping into the customs and the food in the area.
A curious dark comedy follows on Saturday, Sept. 24 ,in the Castro Theatre, “Adieu Godard,” paying homage to Jean-Luc Godard and his early 1960s French New Wave films.
Ananda, an elderly villager in northeastern India, is obsessed with porn, buying DVDs and organizing viewing parties for his friends. His supplier makes an error, selling him Godard’s “Breathless,” branding it as a “French pornographic film.”
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Even without nudity and sex, the film makes such an impression on Ananda that he becomes an avid fan of Godard, organizing a festival of Godard’s films in the village.
The festival, which previously featured films about the prominent Tamil composer A.R. Rahman, offers two music films this year, both in the Castro Theatre on Saturday. They are “Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music,” about the Asian Underground movement in English rock, with the participation of filmmaker Vivek Bald for a Q&A session; and Anurag Singh’s Bollywood film “Dil Bole Hadippa (The Heart Says Hurrah!),” with Rani Mukherjee and Shahid Kapoor, at the festival’s evening show, “3rd I’s Bollywood at the Castro.”
Among festival screenings on Sunday, Sept. 25:
n “In Search of Bengali Harlem,” by Vivek Bald and Alaudin Ullah, about Bengali men, who, dodging racist Asian exclusion laws, married into New York’s African American and Puerto Rican communities, where the likes of Malcolm X and Miles Davis shared space and broke bread with immigrants from the Asian subcontinent.
n “Animal,” Cyril Dion’s documentary about the world’s ecological crises of climate change and the sixth mass extinction of wildlife, as seen through the eyes of two 16-year-old environmental activists.
n “Coast to Coast: Mumbai to the Mission,” a shorts program of filmmakers from South Asia to California and throughout the diaspora, with stories of relationships, identity, LGBTQ+ and social justice. The festival “warns of a fair amount of humor.”
A free offering from the festival is the Oct. 6 streaming of short films; no registration or ticket is required to view.