SAIFF Day 4, Saturday Evening

Saturday evening started off with three movies — UNTITLED (my short), BLACK AND WHITE and MADE IN INDIA.

UNTITLED by Shripriya Mahesh is a 9 minute narrative short. It is hard to review your own film. But since I finished it almost six months ago, I’ve had some distance from it. Here’s the synopsis

Sanjay and his wife lead a cookie cutter existence in Manhattan. One day, as he returns home, he is handed a flyer to a gallery opening and on a whim, decides to attend. Siddharth, the gallery owner, educates Sanjay on art and introduces him to a captivating painting. With Siddharth, as his bodhisattva, leading the way, Sanjay is more ensnared with each successive visit. Has Sanjay found what he has always been looking for?

You can find my analysis (what was good and what could be improved) of Untitled here.

BLACK AND WHITE by Mahesh Shimpi is a 13 minute short that he made at the New York Film Academy. The concept is credited to Wait Until Dark and is about a blind woman who enters her house when there is already a burglar in the house. The rest of the short deals with how she figures out that there is a burglar in the house and how she deals with it. The film is shot in black and white and that lends itself to making the film more interesting (colors don’t distract you). The actress did a good job – even with her sunglasses off, she is a believable blind person. The biggest issue is that it is taken from Wait Until Dark. Since so many people have seen that movie, when watching this one, you know what’s going to happen and so makes the movie seem longer than it is.

MADE IN INDIA by Deepti Paul is a documentary about Deepti’s struggles against arranged marriage. Told from a first person perspective, it is a funny look at a situation where her parents (who did not have an arranged marriage) are pressuring her to get hitched. Deepti talks to her parents, her grandmother and peers to understand their view of the situation. She then heads off to her family village in Kerala to give the system a whirl before saying no. We see amusing anecdotes of what the relatives think of the situation and are even privy to her arranged meeting of a potential groom, Benny. The audience was in stitches, laughing at the situation, but also laughing at Benny and I felt quite bad for the guy — he did nothing wrong. In fact, he was the only guy who gave Deepti permission to show the footage and it seemed harsh to laugh at the poor guy because he wasn’t polished. Overall, this was a very entertaining documentary, but I have one suggestion for improvement – it was too long (yes, I know, this is a recurring theme. Blame Marc DeRossi, my editing professor). There was almost a 10 minute section where Deepti interviewed her parents. I think she couldn’t make it shorter because it was *her parents*, whereas the film would have been better if it was 40 minutes instead of 62. I spoke with a few people after the screening. I found that most Americans loved this documentary – it was revealing and educational. Most Indians (ABCD or FOB) found this somewhat clichéd. This is bound to happen with any doc – those who are closer to the topic will find it repeats the obvious. Not sure how to solve this issue in the documentary world… any thoughts from those with more experience?

Overall, since it was Saturday evening, the theater was packed. There were only about 40 free seats. It was great to play in front of such a packed house.