The Chicago South Asian Film Festival (CSAFF) in its 14th Annual Edition kicks off with diverse, inclusive, and bold films from South Asian regions and artists. CSAFF has established itself as a significant platform for showcasing innovative and diverse cinematic creations, and strives every year to improve the portrayal of South Asian artists and their stories. CSAFF will take place in Downtown Chicago from September 21st to the 24th and will screen 100+ films that promote South Asian perspectives and talent. It is the largest film festival of its kind in the Midwest and will screen a global array of feature films, short films, documentaries, and a music video in the genres of Drama, Comedy, Thriller, Horror, Romance, Social Issues and Justice and more. The Festival showcases films from and about South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the U.S, the UK and Canada. All films are either spoken or subtitled in English. CSAFF is proud to showcase 30+ World Premieres, 22 North American Premieres, and 35+ Chicago Premieres.
“This year’s festival brings hope, a sense of gratitude, and most importantly voices which amplify diversity, inclusion, and groundbreaking stories with humility. With a lineup of thought-provoking films, engaging discussions, and networking opportunities, I guarantee it will give you goosebumps,” says Festival Director, Jigar Shah.
The Festival kicks off with Opening Night film THREE OF US by award-winning director Avinash Arun Dhaware. He has also been a cinematographer on landmark films such as Masaan, Madaari, Kaarwan, Love per Square Foot, Drishyam and Hichki, ‘Paatal Lok’ and ‘Mismatched’. The film features prolific actors Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Swanand Kirkire. The festival promises to be an exciting celebration of the arts and cinema, bringing together filmmakers, industry professionals, and enthusiasts from around the world. Lord Curzon ki Haveli is making its North American premiere and will be the Closing Night Film at the festival. It features actor-turned-director Anshuman Jha and Delhi Crime and Mirzapur famed very talented Rasika Dugal who will be in attendance for the film and the Red Carpet.
Our centerpiece film The Storyteller by Anant Mahadevan is based on Satyajit Ray’s short story “Golpo Boliye Tarini Khuro” which is about originality versus plagiarism, starring Paresh Rawal, Adil Hussain, Revathi. The Festival also supports episodic content and this year CSAFF is proud to announce Pakistani Web series ‘Farar’ as Marquee web series of CSAFF. It features talented and gorgeous Sarwat Gilani from Pakistan, acclaimed director Mehreen Jabbar who will be in attendance. Shailaja Kejriwal, Chief Creative Officer, special projects from Zee Zindagi and acclaimed producer who has worked on many South Asian works such as Churails and films starring the late Irrfan Khan, Madaari and Qarib Qarib Single, will be in attendance as well.
The Festival is ecstatic to announce a very special actors panel this year “East meets West” – Actors Panel where we will be featuring Aparshakti Khurana (Jubilee Prime famed), Richa Moorjani (Never Have I Ever, Netflix famed), Samrat Chakrabarti (International Actor, Homeland and The Sinner famed), Sarwat Gillani (Pakistan Actor, Joyland famed), and Rasika Dugal (Delhi Crime famed) to speak about their acting journey. Aparshakti Khurana, Rasika Dugal and Richa Moorjani will be receiving the SAFA (South Asian Films in America) Award at the festival.
Acclaimed producer and filmmaker Manish Mundra, the founder of Drishyam Films and known for establishing the Drishyam–Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab for aspiring Indian screenwriters, will be making his directorial debut with Siya and will be in attendance. He was named as one of Variety magazine’s Top 10 Producers to Watch Out For in 2017. Siya, featuring Vineet Kumar Singh is a social drama feature film inspired by true events and set in Uttar Pradesh, India. CSAFF is excited to host screenings of films highlighting LGBTQ issues, women’s empowerment, social justice and more. This year’s large LGBTQ focus includes Call Me Dancer, a documentary story about ballet, perseverance, and going against odds. Manish Chauhan will be in attendance to represent the film and walk the Red carpet. Others include Pine Cone by national award winning director, Onir, a semi-autobiographical film that follows being queer in a time of changing social landscape in India, who will be in attendance. The film Raja Bro by national award-winning director Sridhar Rangayan who has been at the forefront of India’s queer cinema movement, and this film is no exception to his brilliant work. It is a heart-warming story following an Indian trans man’s acceptance by himself and his family. TAPS is a story that focuses on domestic queer relationships and the struggle to navigate it, by director Arvind Caulagi who has won the Kashish film grant that supports LGBTQ films. Other films such as Brother, Where is my Spot, Aleeya, and Navrasa will be featured in the festival. “14 years in the making, it feels special and fulfilling. I appeal to the community to come and enjoy the power-packed weekend with us,” says Co-Founder and President Ketki Parikh.
The Festival will feature To Kill a Tiger, directed by Emmy-nominated Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja and executive producers Mindy Kaling and Dev Patel. Whispering Mountains from Sri Lanka touches heavily on youth uprisings and is directed by Jagath Manuwarna, a well-known human rights activist in Sri Lanka. Buelwa – An Offering is a film that highlights mental health, childhood trauma, and youth issues in Bhutan, which is a very special to be featured from Bhutan. Chalti Rahe Zindagi by Aarti Bagdi featuring Siddhant Kapoor, Manjari Fadnis, Seema Biswas, Indraneil Sengupta. Mariam by Sanjay Bhutiani, Follower by Harshad Nalawade, Birha the Journey are some of the independent films at the festival. Gulmohar is a story about the challenges of two people from different social classes trying to provide the best life for their children. Colonel Kalsi is a documentary about an American Sikh army officer’s struggle to serve his country with honor and dignity. Shoebox by Faraz Ali will be featured, which is about breaking generational patterns of violence and healing for society and individuals. The film Footprints on Water by Nathalia Syam featuring Adil Hussain is a poignant portrayal of the experiences of illegal immigrants who go to the UK with hopes of improving their lives. A short film that will be shown will be Queen of Hearts which is inspired by true and personal events that emphasizes the triumph of good over evil. This is Canadian filmmaker Raman K Fenty’s directorial debut. We have a collection of films that feature different stories from Bengali people and the Bengali diaspora, including Ochin Pakhi, a documentary focused on the Bengali band based in Chicago and cultural integration through music, and In Search of Bengali Harlem which explores the complex histories of South Asians and Muslims in the U.S. by award-winning filmmaker, Vivek Bald.
There is a huge focus of films from Pakistan such as Out Beyond, Team Ladu, Eid Mubarak, What will you take with you which celebrates vibrant stories of Pakistani Cinema. Nepali film On a Quest with Jaswant by Emmy award winner Jaswant Shrestha celebrates nature in its entirety. Other diaspora shorts, documentaries and features include films from talented filmmakers and artists such as Namaste Yoga, Cup of Cha, Ira, Preet, Letters from the Past, Sifter, Bollywood goes Hollywood, Suit We Wear, Unsuitable, Zero Hour, Tiny Joy, Learning Not to Drown, Pivot, Beads of Breath, Zoe, Raj Lost and Found, Blood Drive, Blaming and Shaming, Sita, East’s Paradise, Mum and Me, Space in Between, Butterscotch and many more. The Festival is also showcasing a music video Jaane Kya Hoga Mera by Jaasman Rathore who is a singer and filmmaker from Canada. Films from Canada such as Copeless, Eating the Other Out, Spin Over, Dil Rakh: Gloves of Kin, and many more will be making their way to Chicago. CSAFF will also be showcasing local pieces from Chicago such as Arranged, Raja420, Nazar, F For Equality, Ochin Pakhi, Between the Silence, and many more.
The Festival will be hosting a Filmmaker Q+As in collaboration with South Asian House bringing artists and creative minds together. Co-moderated by co-founders of the South Asian House, Rohi Mirza Pandya and Kirtana Banskota.
CSAFF will be hosting a Master Class by an acclaimed producer and director, Manish Mundra who will be in attendance. Festival Pass-holders can enjoy access to all festival events, including: Red Carpet and Opening Night Film on September 23 rd , all film screenings, 21+ After-Party, Panel and Q&A Discussions, Closing Film and Awards Night. Individual film blocks are also available for purchase. Ticket information can be found at www.csaff.org/tickets. View our Festival Film Guide and screening information here: www.csaff.org/film-guide-2023 CSAFF will also be hosting a Bollywood After Party on Saturday, September 23rd as a lively celebration of art, culture, and music. The Chicago South Asian Film Festival is powered by ZEE5 Global, the world’s largest streaming platform for South Asian entertainment. ZEE5 Global boasts 200,000 hours of content comprising more than 4,000 films, 2,300 TV Shows and 800 originals across 18 languages and is today the leading South Asian platform both in the US and Globally. Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer of ZEE5 Global will also be attending the event.