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The Indian Film Festival Seeks to WOW Cincinnati

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

The Indian Film Festival is one of the most underrated Film Festivals in Cincinnati. It's films are full of cinematic beauty and actors who understand the essence of film creation.

Quick! Name 10 Cincinnati Festivals that you attend.

I bet the Indian Film Festival is not among those 10. This is what the organizers want to change. On the eve of the 3rd Indian Film Festival, the organizers are hoping to attract their biggest crowd yet.

They probably will, and yet, the festival still struggles with getting its footing amongst a City that professes to love and engage diversity, and encourages all sorts of events as it continues its upward trajectory in transforming the City.

When I moved to Cincinnati in the early 2000s to attend NKU, I was determined to move back to Philadelphia as soon as I completed College. I was only here to take advantage of an "affordable" College vs. the expensive Colleges back east. Not much happened here. Simply put, it was an uninspiring City.

By the time I graduated, I had taken a look around and saw a different City. I looked into my inner circle - I was on a Young Professionals Committee of the American Red Cross called Club Red. I was interning at the Global Center of Greater Cincinnati where I had the opportunity to mix and mingle with world-class leaders (I picked up Dennis Ross from the airport and was in charge of his itinerary while he was in Cincinnati), I had just joined the Artswave club that allowed students and young professionals to buy season tickets to the Aronoff at the price of two tickets or something like that. My close friends consisted of Americans, Lebanese, Kenyans, Britons, Nigerians, and Indians. I felt at home. So I decided to make a life here.

Over the years, I have witnessed Cincinnati revitalize downtown to attract a young workforce, adopt technologically advanced amenities, create lots of greenspaces, produce memorable events, build restaurants with alluring ambiance and delicious foods, and embrace Immigrants. It's a great feeling to live in this City. My Norwegian friend who visited us this summer was awed by what this City offers. Her 12-year-old son did not want to leave.

And yet, despite all the protestations to engage with diverse organizations from both the City leaders and Corporations, unique organizations like the Film Festival still struggle to earn their keep. There's certainly a lot of enthusiasm and goodwill, but the truth, the festival can use some significant sponsorships.

The mission of the festival is:

To engage diversity through Film. To bring understanding and reflection to the common human values that bind us in spite of our diversity.

There are not many Festivals from the Asian continent doing this in Cincinnati or the Tri-State. The Festival beginnings were inspired by Mayor Cranley's call to make Cincinnati an immigrant-friendly city. The Indian-American community, via the Sister City relationship, responded to that call with a multicultural festival that attracted films from the South Asian immigrant population around the world.

Festivals like these deserve the City to back them up not just with funds but with the presence of city officials to support diversity in all its forms. The festival does have the support of the diversity and inclusion offices of UC & Ethicon, but in a large city like Cincinnati, with a workforce of over 28 000 Indians, the City and business community, and even ourselves, need to show greater support. There are many opportunities to continue Cincinnati's vibrancy, including attracting Directors to make their films right here in much the same way the Hollywood initiative has worked.

India has the largest film industry in the world after Hollywood, with more than 1200 releases each year in the mainstream film industry alone. Independent films such as the ones showcased by the Indian Film Festival are the fastest-growing segment of the industry. We would be wise to position our City to capture the imaginations of these Directors and make Cincinnati the go-to destination for Multicultural movie making.

The festival is organized and hosted by the India Cincinnati Sister cities in collaboration with the Art Museum. The Cincinnati Sister Cities is a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit. The organization is charged with the mission of promoting and building the awareness of cross-cultural diversity through the creation, production, exhibition, publication, and performance of cross-cultural art forms such as art, dance, film, architecture.

Cincinnati's Sister City is Mysore which coincidentally just had a large national conference in the City, and I'm sure brought millions of revenue to the City. Not many knew about the conference, which could have afforded Cincinnatians with yet another opportunity to experience this magical culture. And in case you are wondering how exactly this enriches our City, another objective and cause for the festival is:

To use net proceeds of our ticket sales to create scholarships that assist high school students in need to take part in the Youth Ambassador Program of the India Sister City

Imagine the future of a kid positively exposed to another culture at an early age? Not middle-class kids who have resources, but the type of kid growing up with resentment of others because that's what their parents teach them. That their problems are because of the other...

There is not much CULTURAL rapport between Cincinnati and Asia that we hear about, which is why the Film Festival wants to change that. Through screenings of premieres of feature, documentary and short films made in and about the South Asian subcontinent or its people, the film festival hopes to engage Cincinnati in not only watching the films but in discussions that show a clear link between the two cultures and its people. The organizers have reached into their own pockets to fund the film directors to either come to Cincinnati to discuss the issues their films raise, or to be available via Skype for such discussions.

It is my hope, and the Festival organizers, that the six days of screenings and post-screening discussions will move the community towards being more peaceful, tolerant, and loving to each other. 




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