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Arts, Sports & Culture

Film Festival Taps Directors to Build Cultural Ties

One of Pittsburgh’s most popular film festivals opened this weekend and continues through Sunday with the goal of not only entertaining viewers, but also opening the door to a better understanding of Asian cultures.  

The Silk Screen Film Festival defines Asia as stretching from Israel to Japan. Executive Director Harish Saluja said the goal of the organization and all of its events throughout the year is to build cultural bridges between Pittsburgh and that region of the world.

 “The more we know about these cultures the better it will be for us and the world in general,” Saluja said.  “We feel that by arraigning cultural programing, dances, music, films, etc., it can only help the situation.”  

To that end, the goal of the festival's organizers is to hold a moderated discussion after each film to explore the cultural impact of each film. Most of those talks are hosted by board members or local experts but with four of the films someone closely associated with the movie will guide the discussion.

In the case of "The Coin Bearer," which is showing at the Melwood Screening Room May 16 and 17, executive producer J.D. Beals will moderate the discussion. His film explores a loophole in the ban on gambling in the Philippines that allows for games of chance to be used to help pay for a funeral. The characters of the film try to exploit that loophole.

Yulin Kuang directed the short film "The Perils of Growing Up Flat Chested," and she will moderate the session after her film Saturday in the same space.

The historically based film "Chittagong" will be featured Wednesday and Friday, and Indian director Bedrapata Pain will host that discussion.

“We have all heard about Gandhi and the nonviolent struggles, but there were many violent uprisings (in the 1930s) in India,” Saluja said. The film looks at one of those uprisings that had some success before being squashed by the British, who eventually imprisoned many of those involved.  

Finally, Silk Screen has brought the 2009 Audience Choice Award winning animated film "Sita Sings the Blues," which according to the organizers “combines director Nina Paley’s autobiography with a 21st century revision of the classic Indian myth, the Ramayana. Sita, a Hindi goddess and dutiful wife, follows her husband Rama on a 14-year exile to a forest, only to be kidnapped by an evil Sri Lankan king.”  Voice actor Aseem Chhabra will lead that post-show discussion.