South asian film festival courses through UW-L

Stephanie Koss, Senior Reporter

The first annual South Asian Film Festival, entitled “Who is India’s Daughter?” was held at UW-La Crosse starting on Mon., Feb. 29 and ending on Mon., March 7. A different film was shown every night in 1309 Centennial Hall. The event also featured post-film discussions and lectures by award-winning filmmaker Sonali Gulati.

Among the films shown at the festival were India’s Daughter, The World Before Her, Pink Saris, Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night, I Am, Light Fly, Fly High and Salma. Each of these films showcased some of the struggles and challenges that women in India are facing today and how they are working to overcome them.

In the Spring of 2015, the BBC released the film, India’s Daughter, while Dr. Gita Pai, a professor in the History Department, was teaching her HIS 383 course, Women in South Asia. The film accounts the infamous gang rape and murder of a young Dehli woman in 2012. The film not only prompted a lot of discussion in the classroom about the challenges that Indian women face, but also much discussion around the world began following the release of the film.

In response to the film, a collaborative effort was formed between Dr. Pai and some of her colleagues. In addition to Dr. Pai, the festival was formed by two other UW-L professors: Dr. Mahruq Khan, a professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Dr. Nabamita Dutta, a professor in the Economics Department.

Together they began planning and choosing films that would elicit further audience discussion about the issues facing Indian women today.

“We chose films to help explore the challenges women in India face today, how these women overcome these challenges, and who can speak for Indian women. After each screening, a facilitator will lead the post-film discussion, so the audience can ask questions and engage in a conversation with one another,” said Pai.

Due to the fact that Dr. Pai is of South Asian descent, the festival holds a special importance for her.

“The film festival means a lot to me personally. One, it allows me to honor my mother who was born and raised in India before immigrating to the U.S. Two, it allows me to bring greater awareness about India outside the classroom to the wider community. And three, it allows me to deal with South Asian women’s issues and rights, a topic about which I am very passionate,” said Pai.

Pai also strongly believes in the relevance these topics have in regards to the modern society in India.

“India remains in many ways a traditional society, where tradition is a polite term for deep-rooted patriarchy. With economic progress and more women coming out of the home to work, this patriarchal mindset is facing an emerging challenge. The films we screen show women who try to push back on the sociocultural boundaries which tradition dictates, and who try to assert their own choices rather than let the males in their lives decide for them,” responded Pai.

Pai hopes that this festival has sparked further global and classroom discussions regarding the ever-present issues of which Indian women are constantly facing.

Have more questions regarding the film festival? Contact [email protected] for more information.


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