Issue 73 / Austin Texas Film Festival Gives The Stage To Worthy Independent Projects

Austin Texas Film Festival Gives The Stage To Worthy Independent Projects

Jun 09, 2017

At a time when it feels like there’s an increasing number of events working to divide people in North America, one film fest in the United States is attempting to bridge that gap and unite people through very interesting independent films thanks to the Indie Meme Film Festival. 

Just having wrapped up its second year, one of the founders of the Indie Meme Film Festival,  Tripti Bhatnagar, says the four-day event, which featured 15 films from India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Iran and America “brings incredible stories, culture and film […] from South Asia to Austin.”

Indie Meme Film Festival
Indie Meme Film Festival: From right to left: Indie Meme co-founder Tripti Bhatnagar, Damon Consulting CEO Gita Lal (film fest sponsor), Indie Meme co-founder Alka Bahnot and Lipstick Under My Burkha actress Ahana Kum. Photo Credit: Indie Meme Film Festival

But it’s not just the culture that Indie Meme wants to bring to the forefront, it is an awareness of some of the issues highlighted in the films and documentaries in the hope of facilitating and gaining a deeper understanding of what some of these people go through on a daily basis. “We are working towards building a socially conscious global community around cinema,” Bhatnagar explains.

Indie Meme Film Festival
Indie Meme Film Festival: An Insignificant Man was screened at the 2016 TIFF. Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival

Organizers called the reception for this year’s festival “extremely encouraging.”  An estimated 1,400 people attended the various screenings, which is an increase of almost 55 per cent compared to last year. Proof of that was the sold out opening night film An Insignificant Man. It tells the story of perhaps the most polarizing man in India today, Arvind Kejriwal. He’s the head of a new political party, also nicknamed the Common Man’s Party. Kejriwal’s movement is challenging the status-quo and going head-to-head with the two most powerful political establishments in the country. The 100-minute film gives viewers an inside look at the party from their daily meetings and inside jokes to their heated arguments.

Indie Meme Film Festival
Indie Meme Film Festival: Hindi film, Lipstick Under My Burkha, was initially blocked by India’s film censor for being too “lady-oriented.” Photo Credit: Lipstick Under My Burka

The controversial film Lipstick Under My Burkha also had a sold-out screening.  In this feature, the filmmaker takes viewers to a town in rural India, where four women who wear burkas try to break out of the moulds they are confined to in an attempt to figure out who they really are in their conservative society.  All four women do so through secret acts of rebellions, like the 55-year-old widow in the film who rediscovers her sexuality through a phone romance or the college girl who follows her aspiration to become a pop singer.

Indie Meme organizers says that both the opening night film, An Insignificant Man, and the closing night film, Lipstick Under My Burkha, were initially banned in India due to their controversial content, so their film festival was able to give these independent filmmakers a platform to showcase their work. In an interview with the Austin Chronicle, Indie Meme co-founder, Alka Bahnot,  said “All the films were in some way about exercising your rights and freedoms. They may be political rights in a democracy, or the right to express sexual affiliation. It might be the right to dream, to [make] a better life, to change, to cope with change our way. We are careful about the voices we amplify: They are the most deserving, creatively progressive ones.”

Indie Meme Film Festival
Indie Meme Film Festival: The Cinema Travellers was filmed over five years. Photo Credit: The Toronto International Film Festival

Even the documentary The Cinema Travellers had a relatively large audience at its screening, which garnered rave reviews. The film – made over five years – has earned international accolades, including a 2016 Cannes Golden Eye Special Mention and was also part of the popular International Film Festival here in Toronto (TIFF) last September. In the film, viewers learn about the 120-year tradition of mobile tent cinemas through the eyes of the Akshaw Traveling Cinema company, which brings movies to distant towns and villages across India with the help of an old movie projector. But as the filmmaker finds the tradition is nearing extinction with patrons being lured away by their television sets and digital devices.

Next on the docket for members of Indie Meme a bit of a breather now that this festival has wrapped for another year. But they say they don’t just have to worry about preparing for next year’s event because throughout the year they carefully curate meaningful Indie cinema from South Asia for monthly screenings. “We really have build the community from scratch and have been very fortunate to have audience in Austin who enjoy indie cinema,” adds Bhatnagar.

Main Image Photo Credit: Lipstick Under My Burka/Indie Meme Film Festival 

Neetu Seupersadsingh


Neetu Seupersadsingh has loved writing for as long as she can remember. That's why Carleton University’s journalism program  was her clear choice for post-secondary studies. In Ottawa, she was able to further develop her skill in arts, entertainment and lifestyle reporting. So...


Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter for all of the latest news, articles, and videos delivered directly to your inbox each day!

  • PLEASE NOTE: Some of the contents of the newsletter may not be suitable for minors.

    Join A Community That Cares About What Matters To You!

    We Fearlessly Celebrate Our

    Desi Identity!