BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Photos by SFA Productions
Atlanta, GA, May 26, 2022: Lights! Camera! Action! While Los Angeles remains the epicenter of filmmaking, it is no secret that Georgia is indeed the Hollywood of the South. A fine testament to its growing popularity in the movie industry, well over a thousand members of the Gujarati community gathered to be part of the third edition of Vadilal International Gujarati Film Festival (IGFF), which rolled out the red carpet in Atlanta between May 20-22, 2022, at Venture Cinemas in Duluth, Georgia.
Previously held in New Jersey (2018)and in LA and NJ (2019), IGFF aims at the promotion of Gujarati culture and cinema on a wider scale. Through a series of awards, the festival also provides filmmakers with the opportunity to indulge with a professional network and help grow their know-how of the international cinematic trends. The cinematic cultural festival is also supported by Gujarat Tourism.
Opening with a traditional dance, sponsors and dignitaries kicked off the festivities with the ceremonial lighting of the lamp on opening night.
IGFF opened with Internationally acclaimed ‘The Last Film Show’, directed by Pan Nalin, closing with ’21 MU Tiffin’, directed by Vijaygiri Bava. ‘The Last Film Show’ walked away with the Best Film Award. The films were selected by the jury based on their excellence in cinema and universal appeal. While the festival focuses on Gujarati filmmakers, the audience for those films is worldwide, noted Juror/director Gopi Desai.
Dr. Naresh Parikh chaired the 2022 IGFF with Dr. Jag Sheth serving as co-chair. Dignitaries at the event included Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Consul General of Atlanta, India, Yuva Vaishnav Acharya Goswami from Shree Sharnamkumar Mahodaya temple, Senator Joe Wilson and Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason. The event featured appearances from stars and filmmakers from India, including Filmmaker and IGFF Festival Director Umesh Shukla, Festival Jury Members Gopi Desai, and Jay Vasavada, along with actors Ishani Dave, Pooja Jhaveri, Chetan Dhanani, Devaki, and filmmaker Neeraj Joshi, who were present at the event. The four-member jury also included cinematographer Faroukh Mistry, and Writer/Director/Poet Saumya Joshi.
Dr. Parikh observed silence in honor of Atlanta’s dearly departed photographer, Vinod Delvia. He also emphasized the importance of Coronary Calcium Scan that could have perhaps saved his life.
This year’s festival included 14 Feature Films of various genres, such as 21 MU Tiffin, a drama, Gajab Thai Gayo, Science fiction, Last Film Show, Yuva Sarkar – Ek Vichar, Drama, Politics, Divaswapna, Drama, Dhummas, Romance Thriller, Gandhi & Co., Family Drama, Comedy, Dear Father, a Comedy, Crime Drama, and Gujarat nu Gaurav, Action, Comedy, Drama; Three Documentary Films, Sur Shabdnu Sarnamu and Shrimad Rajchandra, and Okhamandal – Ek Anokhu Andolan; 5 Short Films, Gandhi, Roha Fort – Ek Visaraati Viraasat, and Shiro; and Six Web Series Films, such as Benaqaab, Ghaat and Yamraj Calling.
“Gujaratis are usually finance oriented. They always talk about business and stocks. The newer generation however is more inclined towards science and technology. But they don’t have many options at the theatre for a sci-fi movie. I hence chose that genre,” director Neeraj Joshi told NRI Pulse. His Gajab Thai Gayo revolves around teachers and students of Sheth Kapurchand Mangaldas Vidyalaya who stumble upon a teleportation device while on a school trip. This device, a meteor, speaks in a human voice and also has a sense of humor.
Highlighting the fact that regional movies, apart from Bollywood also thrive in the county, and the purpose of festivals such as IGFF, Dr. Kulkarni said, “India is not only limited to Bollywood. It has a multilingual film industry. We have Gujarati cinema, we have Bengali cinema, we have South Indian cinema. So, it’s very diverse. It represents the diverse mood of our country. These festivals, the international Gujarati festival, international Bengali film festival, they bring people together. They bring cultures together. And that’s how the countries come together.”
“After two years of pandemic, I think I think people want to come out and see the movie theater,” director of critically acclaimed Oh my God, and festival director, Umesh Shukla noted commenting on the huge gathering. “Local community and audience were very excited about the screening as well as grand closing night featuring the Award Ceremony,” Mustafa Ajmeri, chief coordinator of IGFF, Atlanta and Board member, IGFF, said.
“Gujaratis are spread across the globe, any country you go anywhere, you will come across the Gujaratis,” Desai observed. “They own the private jets now, and this game here started from scratch, started from zero,” she said, adding, “I would say for 99 percent of them, there are no godfathers for them. But they found their way, they found their path, and they’re successful today.”
Considering Atlanta’s growing popularity for film productions, Shukla expressed his desire to scout the city for locations and plan future projects. He also voiced his concern about the impact of the pandemic that led to closing down of movie theatres, among others, such as the now closed theatre that served as the venue for the festival.
As the pandemic slows down and Atlanta film industry further establishes itself as a massive production hub, we can only hope to see many more festivals and filmmakers making their way to the busiest airport in the world. Welcome one. Welcome all. We are peachy as can be.