Yogi hasn’t seen many films made by people like him, so he started his own festival

In the three years that Yogi Devgan has made films, he has won international accolades and had films selected for screenings in the UK, Bali, Mexico, Brazil and the USA.
At home in Australia however, where the Punjabi man has lived since 2014, it’s a different story.
“They look at your name and then you’re off the list,” said Devgan, who doesn’t understand why he missed so many opportunities.
“I couldn’t find anyone from my background whose name was there,” he said, speaking of a recent experience with an organization that funds emerging filmmakers.
“I asked, ‘Has this fund ever been given to a person of color?’ The answer was no.
Growing rejections have motivated Mr Devgan to develop a new festival, showcasing the work of minority groups facing additional hurdles in the film industry.

“I said to myself, ‘I have to start my own thing and give others a chance'”.

I asked, ‘Has this fund ever been given to a person of color?’ The answer was no.

Yogi Devgan

According to the organiser, the Port Adelaide Diversity and Inclusion Film Festival, which kicks off in Adelaide on Friday evening, is the first in Australia to bring together work made by or about people from all underrepresented communities.
Among the finalists are films by and about people living with disabilities, South Sudanese, trans, Muslim, refugees, English as a second language and First Nations communities.
“This festival encourages people from these backgrounds to come together under one roof to celebrate and be part of a new society and culture,” Devgan said.
“It’s a brand new festival that I started from scratch, and in two months over 250 people came. It shows that people want this stuff.

Western Australian screenwriter and director Cassandra Nguyen described the selection of her film Hold Up – as a “huge honour”.

Australian-Vietnamese screenwriter and director Cassandra Nguyen says it’s “a huge honour” to be selected as a finalist. Source: Provided / Alison Rodrigues

“We are really excited to be part of a festival like this,” said Ms Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese refugee parents.

Hold Up is a comedy-thriller set in an Asian grocery store that premiered in Los Angeles as part of Viet Film Fest 2021, the world’s largest international Vietnamese film festival.
“It’s really important for representation and for Australian stories on screen to reflect the life we ​​live now in our multicultural society,” Ms Nguyen said.

Ms Nguyen said while film is a “tricky industry”, festivals such as Port Adelaide’s Diversity and Inclusion make it an exciting time to get involved.

Characters from the movie Hold Up hide behind shelves in an Asian grocery store.

Hold Up, a comedy-thriller set in an Asian grocery store, is a finalist at the Port Adelaide Diversity and Inclusion Film Festival. Source: Provided

Editor and director Sam Matthews, who is part of the trans community, agrees that a lot has changed in the past decade.

“We all have our own focus, but I think Yogi was able to take a bird’s eye view.”
“There is always power in numbers when you want to highlight an issue.”
Ms. Matthews is part of a panel of festival judges who all work in the film industry and come from diverse cultural and social backgrounds.
“A lot of up-and-coming filmmakers are making really good work, but they’re not being seen, and that’s what this festival is all about,” Ms Matthews said.

“You never know who might be at the festival who can connect you with other opportunities. And the chance to see all your hard work on screen motivates you to move on to the next project.

“I really wanted to follow my heart”

As a child growing up in India’s Punjab region, Mr Devgan said he dreamed of working in the film industry but did not have the means to pursue it.
It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that he left a career in real estate to study a bachelor’s degree in film and television at the University of South Australia.
“I really wanted to follow my heart, which was making films and telling stories,” said Mr Devgan, who left India for London in 2003 before moving to Adelaide with his Australian wife in 2014.
Mr. Devgan’s work focuses on short films with a social message.

His most recent project, Buddy, was selected for screening at ten international festivals.

He hopes his festival will help people present their work more fairly.
And create momentum for change in the way industry bodies distribute funds.
“There are plenty of actors and filmmakers from diverse backgrounds. Their works may be of a very high standard, but if you consider their applications based on the quality of their English, they will never win.

Mr Devgan believes that increased support for culturally and linguistically diverse filmmakers would increase audience numbers and lead to greater international interest in Australian films.

About Monty S. Maynard

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