THE 3DR EDITION of the Vadilal International Gujarati Film Festival brought the red carpet to the Atlanta area May 20-22. Hundreds of members of the local Gujarati community turned out for the event, which featured appearances from top stars and filmmakers from India.
IGFF, previously held in Los Angeles and New Jersey, is moving to Venture Cinema in Duluth this time. Its mission, besides entertainment, is to publicize one of the Indian alternatives to Bollywood.
This year’s festival features 14 feature films, such as ’21st Tiffin’, ‘Divaswapna’, ‘Dhummas’, ‘Gandhi & Co.’, ‘Dear Father’ and ‘Gujarat nu Gaurav’; two feature documentaries, “On Shabdnu Sarnamu” and “Shrimad Rajchandra”; five documentary films, such as “Okhamandal – Ek Anokhu Andolan” and “Gandhi”; a short film, “Roha Fort – Ek Visaraati Viraasat”; and six web series, such as “Benaqaab”, “Ghaat”, and “Yamraj Calling”.
The large number of moviegoers at the evening touched event director Umesh Shukla. Shukla directed the critically acclaimed film “Oh My God”
“After two years of the pandemic, I think people want to go out and see cinema,” Shukla said.
Many outside India are familiar with India’s Bollywood film industry, but the IGFF shows the diversity of cinema in India, said Swati Kulkarni, Consul General based in Atlanta.
“India is not just limited to Bollywood. It has a multilingual film industry,” Kulkarni said. “We have Gujarati cinema, we have Bengali cinema, we have South Indian cinema. it’s very diverse. It represents the diverse vibe of our country. These festivals, international Gujarati festival, international Bengali film festival, bring people together. They bring cultures together. And that’s how countries come together .
The films were selected by a jury of filmmakers, including Gopi Desai. Now a director and producer in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, Desai has also acted in many films, including “Jhoothi” in 1985 and “Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja” in 1993. The films were selected based on their excellence cinematic and their universal appeal. . Desai said the festival focuses on Gujarati filmmakers, but the audience for these films is global.
“Gujaratis are spread all over the world, any country you go to, you will come across Gujaratis,” Desai said. “But America has big pockets and a big population and they settled. The first migration was in the 1960s and back then it was doctors and engineers and all that. But later, people kept coming here because America has been a dream, a dollar dream, and Gujaratis are very money conscious.
Gujaratis have certainly established a strong base in the United States where they are living that dream, she said.
“They own the private jets now, and this game here started from scratch, started from scratch,” Desai said. “I would say for 99% of them, there are no sponsors for them. But they found their way, they found their way and they are succeeding today.
Atlanta has become a popular location for the American film industry, and Shukla said he plans to scout locations in the city for some future projects. He was a little disturbed to see the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had had on cinemas in this country, such as the now closed cinema where the IGFF was held.
In India, he says, cinema is also a religion for many.
“People came out very quickly. Here it took time. I mean, when I see a theater that’s closed, my heart goes out for it,” Shukla said. “I think the government should also support them and give them money and you’ll get the whole theater going again.”
Among the dignitaries present at the event were Yuva Vaishnav Acharya Goswami of Shree Sharnamkumar Mahodaya Temple, Senator Joe Wilson and Mayor of Peachtree Corners Mike Mason.