Q and A: Fun with a superhero

Featuring documentaries, full-length features and shorts from eight countries, 3rd i’s seventh annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival — running Thursday through Nov. 8 — opens with a high-spirited documentary, “Supermen of Malegaon.” It follows self-taught director/producer Shaikh Nasir on his first post-video foray into film, a nano-budget Superman parody, in his impoverished hometown of Malegaon (200 miles northeast of Mumbai). The film-crazed town embraces his jubilant bare-knuckle filmmaking. The Examiner talked with director Faiza Ahmad Khan about her award-winning debut.

How did you learn about Nasir’s Superman project? Malegaon, which is 70 percent Muslim — most displaced from elsewhere — has been in the news often for communal violence and terrorist attacks. When I heard about a film being made there, it impressed me as something different, not the usual divisiveness.

Were you ever tempted — or asked — to give Nasir filmmaking advice? Just a couple of times, about how to do the green screen, but we didn’t give him too much, because the whole experience would lose its authenticity. It was Nasir’s 10th film and my first, so it was really the other way around. I learned a lot from him!

Some actors paid to have roles? It’s more like product placement: The milkman paid $250, so there’s a scene where someone feels weak, and the father suggests drinking milk. But the majority of Malegaonians work on the power looms, earning around $10 weekly; Nasir paid the lead what he would have earned weaving, or he couldn’t have afforded time off to be in the movie. Nasir’s films play at video halls for five or 10 rupees (about 25 cents); the tickets help fund each next film, but he still runs a clothes store to support his family.

Has this documentary changed anything for those involved? I’m thinking particularly of screenwriter/poet Farogh Jafri, whose commitment to writing is profound and also frustrated. It’s very sad that after this film, Farogh has become a bit of a recluse. Although we made it a year ago, our first screening in India was just last night, which is why the people in the film haven’t benefited as we expected. Maybe if we could have screened it earlier, he would have been noticed by the BBC. Nasir found a distributor for his films and he’s been offered work in television in Bombay. We don’t know yet if he’s going to take it.
 

IF YOU GO

Supermen of Malegaon

Starring Shaikh Nasir, Farogh Jafri, Shafique, Akram Khan, Shakeel Bharati

Directed by Faiza Ahmad Khan Not rated

Running time 52 minutes

Screens 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Roxie

Note: The festival is at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., and the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco. Tickets are $10. Call (415) 835-4783 or visit
www.thirdi.org/festival.

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