Accessible Films for Actionable Change

How Indie Meme Film Festival provides an international platform for independent South Asian filmmakers

by Regine Malibiran
Indie Meme Film Festival 2019

Indie Meme Film Festival 2019 will feature 25 local and international films by South Asian filmmakers. Through Indie Meme, founders Alka Bhanot and Tripti Bhatnagar strive to initiate dialogue and action regarding pressing social issues in the South Asian community.

Bound together by the belief that film and cinema can spark actionable change, Alka Bhanot and Tripti Bhatnagar founded Indie Meme, a non-profit organization that produces film screenings of independent South Asian films in 2013. In its early years, Indie Meme only produced standalone screenings, but its rapid growth soon led to the creation of the Indie Meme Film Festival, a yearly award-winning festival produced each April in Austin.

With the goal of starting dialogue and inspiring action in their audiences, Bhanot and Bhatnagar meticulously curate their programming and screen cinema that revolves around important social issues in South Asia like women’s empowerment, domestic violence, and child abuse.

Because independent filmmakers don’t often have large budgets to support them, Bhanot and Bhatnagar believe that indie films are primarily passion driven. The goal is not necessarily to create a million-dollar blockbuster movie, but rather to get a message across and raise awareness about issues of deep significance to the filmmakers and their audiences.

It’s very important for us that the audience understand the people behind the films,” asserts Bhanot.

Cultivating a connection between cinema, filmmaker and audience is a top priority for Indie Meme. To provide context for the audience, each film is accompanied by either a web conference or a recorded interview featuring the filmmaker. Whenever possible, Indie Meme finances the filmmaker’s travel so that they can be present during the screening of their work. This year, six filmmakers will be in attendance at the festival. By highlighting not only the work but also the creator (many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds), Indie Meme adds credibility to the filmmakers’ portfolios and helps open doors for their next projects.

This year, Indie Meme Festival will feature 25 local and international films by South Asian filmmakers. “The films span seven countries and nine different languages,” Bhatnagar proudly elaborates.

The festival kicks off with a soft opening on Sunday, April 14. Sunday’s feature film is “Chuskit,” a family film about a young Himalayan girl with paraplegia and her determination to go to school despite the barriers in her way.

The festival continues on Friday, April 26 with a screening of “The Last Color.” Based in India, “The Last Color” tells the story of a young tightrope walker who befriends an ostracized widow and eventually becomes an advocate for social reform. The screening will be followed by a live Q&A with filmmaker Vikas Khanna.

Indie Meme Film Festival’s centerpiece is “Her. Him. The Other,” a film anthology by three Sri Lankan filmmakers that explores the ramifications of Sri Lanka’s civil war and the effects of decades of violence on one’s conscience. “Her. Him. The Other” will be screened on Saturday, April 27 and followed by a Q&A with one of the filmmakers, Prasanna Vithanage.

To maximize filmmakers’ reach and audience awareness, Indie Meme intentionally keeps the screenings and festival affordable and accessible. An all-inclusive badge for Indie Meme Film Festival 2019 is a reasonable $85 and individual screenings of the films range from $10-$15.

You can access the festival’s full schedule and further information here.


Read More From the Style Issue | April 2019


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