Sunday, May 29, 2011

The last post-it

Found while cleaning today

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Morning at James Lick Middle School

This morning, I spent a very engaging first period presenting 'Topi' to a group of sixth graders at James Lick Middle School in San Francisco. The screening was timely since the children have been learning about India in the context of studying water and related issues, and have also been corresponding with pen pals from an international school in India. This was a much bigger group than the one at Good Samaritan, and questions flew at me from all directions. Some favorites: 'Why are the people in the film wearing two different colors of clothing?' 'Do you have a pen pal?' 'If you could change anything about the film, would you?' I was impressed with their understanding of film and cinema, and was especially happy to hear that they were learning about India in class.

(Another fantastic visit organized by Rocio from SFIFF, and thanks also to Averel Wilson and all the other teachers at James Lick for hosting us).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Early Artwork

I found these early sketches while cleaning recently.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good Samaritan Family Resource Center visit

As part of the San Francisco International Film Festival's outreach to local schools, I visited the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center in San Francisco this past weekend, where I screened 'Topi' for a group of nine inquisitive 8th-graders.

In our introduction prior to the screening, it became clear that the children had not been taught much Indian history in school. But they picked up the message and ideas in the film quickly, and raised many insightful questions afterwards. Many of the children were Latin American and could see the parallels between the British Empire and the Spanish colonization of the Americas. They were familiar with Mahatma Gandhi, and I was able to use the film as a tool to discuss his role in this period of Indian history.

We had a thought-provoking discussion about the meaning of the prayer cap, religious conflicts, and many other aspects of the film. But inevitably, many of their questions were about India in general and there was a real curiosity about this faraway part of the world. Among my favorites: 'Are there gangs in India?' 'Do people dance a lot in India?' 'Are you the little boy in the film?' In fact, there were so many questions that we could not get to all of them in the hour-long visit.

Too often at a film festival, I end up analyzing films solely on the basis of individual aspects such as sound, story, cinematography, etc. But this visit brought me back to the idea that a film is a window to an entire world, real or imagined. Without a doubt, this has been the most rewarding screening of 'Topi' to date.

(Thanks to SFIFF's Rocio Salazar for organizing the visit and to Andrea Chicas from the Good Samaritan Youth and Youth Services for hosting us).

San Francisco International Film Festival Update

Opening night at the Castro Theatre
The hot seat

I had a great time presenting Topi at SFIFF. It screened three times as a part of the 'Get with the Program' block of animated shorts, and was featured in various publicity materials. I was able to make it to all three screenings, and stuck around to answer questions afterwards. The audiences were fantastic and were interested in many different aspects of the film including the personal connection, the historical context, and the animation process.

One film student asked, "Would you change anything?" To be honest, I'd change everything if I could because I've learned so much since the film was completed and reflected even more on each plot point, character, and cut since I completed it. At every viewing, I want to change something different about the film to see if that would make it better. And yet, despite its flaws, I'd change nothing because making the film was such a terrific learning experience. I had many other prolonged conversations with audience members about the film, and it was wonderful to see 'Topi' received so well.

A few mentions:

Nice program
The festival is really well run and very filmmaker-centric, with a particularly awesome hospitality lounge for folks representing films. I got to meet quite a few directors as well, and it's exciting to reconnect with such a vibrant local film scene. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Best Short Film nominee at New York Indian Film Festival

Topi missed out on Best Short Film but it's still fantastic to be nominated for the award at one of the most prestigious Indian film festivals around.