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A Sri Lankan Love Story, Indian Techies in the U.S. and a Queer Muslim Comedienne

The 10th Annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival Starts Tonight!

Watch a love story in Sri Lanka, Indian immigrants on work visas in the United States, a queer Muslim female comedian and much more at the 10th annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival (#SSAFF2015). The festival brings stories and filmmakers from across South Asia to Seattle. Find out what is in store for this year's SSAFF taking place from October 15-25, 2015.

KCTS 9 talks to Rita Meher, co-founder and executive director of Tasveer, the organization responsible for this film festival showcasing independent films from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan. Watch video on YouTube.


Rita Meher Interview was conducted by KCTS Intern Pranav Shivanna.
Feature image: Still from 'With You Without You' by Prasanna Vithanage (Sri Lanka).


For a decade now, the non-profit organization Tasveer has brought some of the best-known independent films and filmmakers from all over South Asia to Seattle. South Asia is usually defined as the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan. With its increasingly diverse population and a penchant for independent films, Seattle is the perfect city to host the country’s largest South Asian film festival.

Seattle hosts the largest South Asian Film Festival in the country. 


When travel to far-off places is impossible, stories from those regions can be the next best method for learning about diverse cultures and places. As Rita Meher said last year, independent films generally give a truer picture of the world than most commercial films. While India is home to the world's largest film industry and has a long tradition of producing independent films (or art films), digital technology has made film production accessible for filmmakers in the rest of South Asia.

Rita Meher, Executive Director of Tasveer, which produces the annual SSAFF.The 2015 festival will feature one of Sri Lanka’s leading filmmakers, Prasanna Vithanage, for a retrospective on his work including screenings of three of his films. The centerpiece event is a one-woman play by Pakistani-American and proudly queer stand-up comedienne Fawzia Mirza. Local films include Drawing the Tiger by Scott Squire and Amy Bensen, which tells the story of a family in Nepal coping with the loss a young daughter to suicide. Another local work is Cathy Stevulak's documentary Threads about a remarkable needle worker and teacher Surayia Rahman in Bangladesh. The closing night film, The Spectacular Jihad of Taz Rahim by LA-based Raghav Murali, tells the story of a small-time drug dealer who is enlisted as an undercover Muslim informant for the NYPD.

Comedian Fawzia Mirza performs her one-woman play 'Me, My Mom & Sharmila' on October 18 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Apart from the film screenings, the festival includes opportunities to interact with the 24 visiting and local filmmakers who are attending. “The engagement with the community is our focus,” says Meher. “We want everyone who comes [to] go home and say, ‘Wow, I learned something new.’” In total, SSAFF will screen 59 films, including features and shorts, from nine countries over 12 days in venues spread out in Seattle, Bothell, Bellevue, Redmond and Renton.


SUNAKALI by Bhojraj Bhatt screens at SSAFF 2015 on Sunday, October 18.

SSAFF 2015 runs from October 15-25, 2015. KCTS 9 is proud to be a media sponsor.

View a full SSAFF 2015 schedule >>



Laila Kazmi

@Lailakaz — Laila Kazmi is a Northwest Emmy award-winning senior producer and writer at KCTS 9. Her first love is discovering and telling stories of diverse people, places and history. She has lived in Karachi, Bahrain, Chicago, and Seattle. At KCTS 9, Laila produces the series Borders & Heritage, featuring stories of immigrant and refugee experiences in the Pacific Northwest and has produced Reel NW, featuring independent films from and about the Pacific Northwest. Her video-stories have appeared on KCTS 9PBS NewsHour Art Beat, World Channel at WGBH, and KPBS in San Diego. Her articles have been published in PBS NewsHour Art BeatThe Seattle Times, Seattle PI, COLORLINES and Pakistan’s daily Dawn. Laila has a Master of Communication from the University of Washington.

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