The Tampa Bay Area's fourth annual India International Film Festival, just days away, promises to introduce filmgoers to different facets of Indian culture.
From documentaries to touching family dramas, the festival, which runs Feb. 15-17 at Muvico Centro Ybor, features something for everyone.
"The cool thing is that there is nothing like it in the entire state of Florida," said Hetal Gandhi, the festival's director of press and media. "And over the past four years, it's turned into one of the premiere Indian film festivals in the country."
Francis Vayalumkal, former president of the Indo-US Chamber of Commerce in Tampa, founded the festival with a two-fold mission in mind. One, he wanted to create a cultural event that would bring together the local Indian community. According to the film festival website, the Tampa Bay area is home to more than 35,000 people of Indian descent, a demographic that continues to grow at a steady pace and contributes approximately $3 billion in revenue to the local economy. But secondly — and perhaps more importantly — Vayalumkal wanted to expose others to Indian issues and culture.
"People always associate Indian film with Bollywood," Gandhi said. "But Indian films go beyond the musical numbers of Bollywood ... There's more to Indian culture than that. The festival's films showcase Indian issues that are more real than what you see in Bollywood cinema."
The festival kicks off Friday, Feb. 15, with a red carpet event, VIP reception, and dinner, followed by Listen Amaya, the first screening (8:30 p.m.). Directors Avinash Kumar and Geeta Singh will be in attendance for a Q-and-A segment following the movie. The film, which tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship in a contemporary, urban setting, stars Deepti Naval, a famous Bollywood actress turned indie and art house darling.
In the documentary Yoga Is: A Transformational Journey, California-based yogi and director Suzanne Bryant deals with the grief of losing her mother to cancer by traveling to India in search of a deeper meaning of the practice of yoga. Bryant will be available for a Q-and-A session after the film is shown on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. The next day, she'll teach a free yoga class at 11 a.m. in Centro Ybor's courtyard.
Also on Saturday, catch: Planes, Trains & Autorickshaws, a documentary about three American sisters raised in India by missionary parents who return to the country of their childhood for the first time in 50 years; Gattu, the tale of an illiterate street boy whose ambition is to fly kites; and A Gran Plan, about the moving friendship between a troubled young boy and an older lady.
Sunday, Feb. 17, features Valley of Saints, the debut from Musa Syeed. Showing at 8:10 p.m., the film — which was screened at Sundance Film Festival where it won the World Cinema Audience Award and Alfred P. Sloan Prize — follows Gulzar, a young tourist boatman who is forced to run away from his home in Kashmir because of war and poverty. Through Gulzar's story, Syeed highlights the issues faced by many Indians who struggle to balance the country's contemporary issues with its cultural traditions as the world changes around them.
Also on Sunday, catch: Little Terrors, the story of a 13-year-old American boy recruited by a terrorist group to bomb a U.S. embassy in Delhi; Highway, a film that explores and interweaves five different relationships during an ill-fated bus journey through Nepal; and Paanch Adhyay, which focuses on the love story of a contemporary Indian couple.
A pass for the opening night film and reception is $50 and a three-day festival pass can be purchased for $75. One-day passes ($25) and two-day passes ($40) are also available. Individual movie tickets are $5 or $10 depending on the film. Until Friday at 9 a.m., you can get 2-4-1 one-day, two-day and three-day passes on our CL Deals page!