The first edition of “New Jersey Indian International Film Festival” closed on a high with a jam-packed house for the closing film ‘Bucket List’. The director of the film Tejas Deoskar who was present at the screening of the film was overwhelmed by the response the film got at the festival. He said,“ Marathi films are scaling new heights and making waves across the globe. And now local organisations are also supporting good content that is being made.’’ He added, “ NJIIFF is one such festival that provides a platform to showcase world class cinema from India and different parts of the world.’’.
Filmmaker Prakash Jha won the Best Actor award for his performance in ‘Justaju’ and Sayani Gupta in ‘You’ in the short film. Desalos Isabella’s ‘The Snag – An Entry’ from France was awarded the Best Short film.
In the feature film category the lead actress of ‘Tikli & Laxmi Bomb’, Chitrangdha Chakraborty won the Best Actress award for her bold performance as a sex worker in the film, which showcases a mini revolution of the women against the system. Vishwa was awarded the best actor award for his performance in ‘Saalai’. Both the films were entries from India.
The hard hitting film on the named title ‘Half Widows of Kashmir’, which was also the opening film at NJIIFF, won filmmaker Danish Renzu the Best Director award. The film was also awarded the Best Film at the festival. The writer of the film Sunayana Kuchroo received the award on behalf of the producer of the film. She said, “We are honoured that our film was chosen as the opening film of the festival. She also informed of a plan to release the film in India.’’ Half Widow highlights the plight of the women in Kashmir whose husbands had gone missing during the militancy in the Valley.
Iraq’ only entry Mariam produced by Military Media Team and Mohammad Jaffar won the Best Documentary award. Chintan Sharda won the Best Director award for his short film ‘Shunyata’.
In the festival Director’s Award category some of the films that were awarded were Sweta Kripalani and Aditya Kriplani for their film ‘Tikli & Laxmi Bomb’. Ameesha Joshi and Anna Sarkissian’s documentary on the women boxers of India, won the best documentary.
Italy’s short film ‘Weird’ by Fausto Montanari was awarded the Best Short Film by the festival director.
The three- day film festival held at the Regal Hadley theatre screened about 6 documentaries, 11 feature films and 25 short films from India, France, Canada, the U.S. and Italy.
Festival director Hemant Pandya said, “The festival aims to connect filmmakers with the distributors and potential investors, and also to create market for Regional Indian and International films.’’ Pandya intends to scale up the festival even bigger for the next edition and wants the participation of filmmakers from all over the world. Unlike most festivals in the world where filmmakers are asked to pay up Pandya has decided not to burden them.
Filmmaker and Actor Hesh Sarmalkar of the film ‘Clash of Morality’ which was screened in the short film section of NJIIFF was all praises for the festival director Hemant Pandya. He said, “Kudos to the entire team lead by Hemant Pandya who were responsible for the success of the first year of the NJIIF. Hemant Pandya did an outstanding job setting a stage and a platform for us filmmakers to showcase our films in New Jersey. He made it special, unique, memorable and successful as everything was well organized and done in a professional manner. I have travelled to several film festivals but have never experienced such generosity, warmth and personal care which was truly remarkable. I look forward to this festival and I am confident that it will make an impact in the long run as it will be one of the most important film showcasing platforms for Indians in the northeast USA.’’
The festival closed with an award ceremony which saw feature films Danish Renzu’s ‘Half Widow’ and Sweta and Aditya Kriplani’s film ‘Tikli and Laxmi Bomb’ sweeping the awards.