With a theme of “Unity in Diversity,” two venues in Surrey will host the 2022 edition of Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival starting Friday, Nov. 11.
City hall’s Centre Stage theatre and SFU Surrey will be busy with screenings of dozens of films during a four-day festival that aims to “bridge the gap between South Asian talent and mainstream audiences.” Vancouver Film School is a third venue for the festival.
“VISAFF is a celebration of our diverseness and the cultural mosaic that is Canada,” says Mannu Sandhu, who has produced the festival for eight years, has worked as a model and actor, and is also a realtor in Surrey.
“We endeavour to promote inclusion and help build a multicultural society through the festival. It’s a platform for unique and diverse voices to present their viewpoints, creating conversations around subjects that affect us all.”
Tickets for festival screenings are sold on tickets.surrey.ca, and also for a Nov. 10 opening gala at Centre Stage to feature cocktails, conversations and entertainment by San Francisco-based violinist Raaginder, singer Kirti Arneja and Shiamak Dance Group, for $125 a ticket.
The festival’s Centrepiece Film is “Donkeyhead,” Agam Darshi’s story about Mona, a failed writer who carves out a life of isolation while caring for her ailing Sikh father. When he has a debilitating stroke, her three successful siblings show up on her doorstep determined to take control of the situation.
The log line for the festival’s opening film, “No Man’s Land”: Persecuted in one country for being a “Non-Muslim” and in another for being a “Muslim”, Naveen Cheema finds temporary refuge in an apparent safeguard of a manufactured identity in an eventful quest for a sense of belonging.
The fest closes with Nardeep Khurmi’s “Land of Gold,” about Kiran, a first-generation Punjabi trucker and anxious dad-to-be who stumbles across Elena, a nine-year-old undocumented Mexican-American, who changes his expectations of family as he takes her cross-country to find home.
Other films include “Deadline” (in which a disturbed 811 operator navigates through connecting grieving callers amid another troubling day of disclosures and realizations), “Every Day” (the nostalgia of his past and the fear of his future kills K, a middle-aged man, every day) and “An Old Story” (deep-rooted trauma from childhood sexual abuse rocks the marriage of a young couple. Will the victim finally confront the abuser and rid the baggage weighing heavy on the marriage?).
In a festival-related event Nov. 9, Civic Hotel is the venue for “Making Surrey a Prominent Film Destination,” a morning roundtable co-hosted by Surrey Board of Trade. Panelists include James Monk (Surrey’s film manager), Leanne Harry (film and television production financing, with RBC) and Judith MacInnes (development analyst with Telefilm Canada).
Team members of the festival include producer Mannu Sandhu and board directors Raj Arneja, Manu Chopra, Panzy Sandhu, Farah Hassan, Vivek Savkur, Kashif Pasta and Bim Narine.