Diversity in cinema

From September 5–10, film enthusiasts are invited to take part in the third annual Indian Film Festival, the only one of its kind in Ohio, in partnership with the Cincinnati Art Museum.


The executive director for the festival, Dr. Ratee Apana, entrepreneur and professor of International Business at the University of Cincinnati, is president of the non-profit Cincinnati Sister Cities (India). She is joined by Dr. Pat Niskode from Indian Sister Cities, Pankaj Bhaskar, Clara Matonhodze, Dr. Rajan Kamath, and Dr. Rita Kumar, making up the core of hard-working volunteers in production and promotion.


The idea to introduce independent Indian cinema to Cincinnati derived from a white paper she co-wrote for Mayor John Cranley several years ago about making Cincinnati a more immigrant-friendly city. Stories come from the Indian diaspora spread across the globe, and films are either spoken or subtitled in English.


“My mission for the film festival is to create the opportunity to build bridges leading to cross cultural understanding of the common human values and stories that bind us,” Apana explains.


From 467 submissions, 34 films were culled for this five-day festival. The lineup includes feature films and shorts.


The films champion women and present diverse voices from transgender and LGBTQ individuals, plus issues of immigration, racism, sex trafficking, and generational relationships.


Venues for the events span the city, including the Esquire, Mariemont, and Kenwood Theaters, the Envision Cinema in Blue Ash, the Freedom Center, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the University of Cincinnati’s Main Street Theater. After several showings, the film’s director will talk in person or Skype in to engage in discussion with the audience.


Events include a soft opening on September 5 at the Cincinnati Art Museum’s showing of Heat and Dust, directed by Academy Award-winning James Ivory and featuring Julie Christie and Shashi Kapoor. On September 6, Leena Yadav, noted director and filmmaker, will speak at the Main Street Theater at UC, followed by a panel discussion featuring Yadav, members of the Cincinnati film community, and producer Adhrucia Apana of Creative Wealth Media from Hollywood.


The opening film, The Boy with the Topknot, will be presented on September 7 at UC’s Main Street Theater followed by a gala with dinner and entertainment at Tangeman’s Main Hall. Restaurants on Ludlow Avenue and the Quarter Bistro in Mariemont will host after parties after each screening.


The Indian Film Festival began in 2016 as a fundraiser for the Cincinnati Sister Cities Youth Ambassador Program to India. Profits from the film series go to need-based scholarships for Cincinnati Public School’s high school students to travel to Delhi, Agra, and Mysore, Cincinnati’s Sister City, to learn about India’s people and its growing global economy. Past students have called the program “transformative.”


The film festival succeeds through committed volunteers and the financial support of the Ohio Arts Council, plus several corporate sponsors, but there is still a great need for additional individual and corporate sponsorship of the program.


“We are looking for funds to be able to grow the film festival,” says Apana. “With increased funding, we will be able to have more directors and actors come to Cincinnati to speak at the film festival, and also to help Cincinnati grow its film industry by encouraging more films to be made here.”


See the complete Indian Film Festival lineup, purchase tickets to the shows and gala, or view sponsorship options on the website. For individual venues, tickets can be purchased at the door or directly from the venues. Contact Ratee Apana at 513-886-5817 with any additional questions.

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Read more articles by Connie Springer.

Connie Springer is a publicist, writer, photographer, and watercolorist. View her work at her website and portfolio.