Saturday, March 19, 2011

Phil attends the SFIAAFF Friday Night Opening Gala in San Jose

This year the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) celebrates 10 years of screening films here in San Jose. Tonight was the opening ceremony of the film festival, which was held at the Montgomery Theatre in downtown San Jose. Once again the festival was kicked into high gear with style and culture. First the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) thanked all their sponsors, which play a huge part in the festival. Then the audience was treated to a spectacular dance routine by the Chhandam Youth Dance Company. Then the festival screened the world premiere of Hoku Uchiyama's documentary entitled UPAJ.

Pandit Chitresh Das (left) & Jason Samuels Smith (right)

This stunning documentary showcases how individuals from two very different worlds can come together and create something that transcends boundaries. The film focuses on Pandit Chitresh Das, who is a master of Kathark, which is one of India's classical dance forms, and rising tap star from New York's Hell's Kitchen, Jason Samuel Smith. Through backstage footage and intimate settings in and around India, we see the bonding of Das and Smith, and how passionate they are about their art. It is also inspiring to witness two distinctly different cultures drawing inspiration from one another. Through the art of dance, they are able to cross language barriers and bring people of different races and generations together.

The film also touches on how we are responsible for passing down our knowledge to the next generation. Das is well aware of his own mortality, and has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the Kathark will live on. Through his dance schools he has all over the world, his teachings and philosophies will continue to inspire and radiate within the youths of today. The same story can be said for Smith, who has been teaching tap dancing to the children in his community as well. Both draw the teachings of the past, so they will live on in the future.

After the screening of the film, we were again treated to the amazing dance techniques of both Das and Smith. Needless to say, to witness the two of them dancing and feeding off from one another was absolutely awe inspiring. I have never witnessed dancing like this ever in my life. Just amazing! Afterwards the director and stars participated in an informative and philosophical Q&A. Then everyone headed over to the San Jose Museum Of Art for the reception, where fine wine, spirits, and food was served.

Overall it was an amazing night, and this was just the beginning! There are still two more days to see films. If you would like to learn more about the film festival and the Center for Asian American Media, please visit their website at 

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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