ISAFF Seattle 2007 Opens

Just got back from seeing the opening ceremony for ISAFF (Independent South Asian Film Festival), an event organized by a local non-profit, Tasveer, which promotes independent South Asian cinema. This is the 4th year they have put together this film festival and I want to congratulate them for this achievement. Great work guys, keep it up.

At the core of Tasveer are Farah and Rita who co-founded Tasveer in 2002. It’s not an ordinary achievement to break out of the rut of our lives and put so much effort and dedication into creating such a great outlet for creativity and independent thought. With main stream media being so controlled and busy ignoring real news we really could use more such individuals and events. 

About the opening ceremony, here is the schedule. It was a short documentary called “Voices of Kutch” about a group of radio reporters that want to bring the power of radio to the people living in villages in Kutch, Gujrat. Reminded me about a program I heard on NPR a few months ago about how local community supported radio became powerful in America a few decades ago when people realized that they could air their thoughts and choices and break the grip of corporations on the programming. It seems to me like that whole revolution missed India altogether. We went from not having any voice to being bombarded with images and sounds controlled by either the Government or by companies. Still not providing a voice to local people and local issues. Only now with the internet is that happening. But at the same time, for a country of a billion people, I don’t think India has that much presence on the internet… I’m talking about blogs, forums, content generated by you and me. Just look at youtube for example. Anyways I diverge… the documentary was interesting and left me with a positive feeling because poor ordinary people are happy and enthusiastic when they are given hope and dreams.

After that it was mostly the Salman Ahmad show. He was the guitarist and co-founder of Junoon, which was a fantastic band. They combined rock music with tabla and Sufi lyrics and amazing amazing vocals by Ali Azmat. To me Ali’s vocals and the Sufi touch were the best part of Junoon. Before I give my opinion about that part of the show, here is what happened. First there was a video of one of Salman Ahmad’s songs that he sang with Shubha Mudgal (featured Nandita Das – she is hot). Then there was a short documentary called “It’s My Country Too – Being Muslim-American” featuring Salman Ahmad. Finally he came out and performed a few songs including Sayonee. Then there was a Q & A session for which I did not stay.

So I thought that the whole Salman Ahmad show was less than spectacular. He is not a singer and did not do a great job at it during his performance. The bar for a performer at his level is pretty high and I did not think he lived up to it in a couple of the songs performed. The acoustics of the place were not great and the local tabla player William Gilchrist who was on stage with him did not give good support at all. I think it was a great opportunity to blast out some mean fusion material and they missed it.

Don’t want to sound too negative but I have one more rant about the show… the transitions between speakers and programming requires to be a little more smooth and professional. I will leave it at that and list the things I loved about tonight:

Loved that all the people running the festival are great, enthusiastic and dedicated. It shows. Loved the documentary “Voices of Kutch”. Loved the instrumental that Salman Ahmad did in the middle of his set. Loved the fact that there were representatives of many organizations like KBCS and ACLU speaking on stage.

 Thanks guys for doing this. 

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