Oh what a success, this SAFAL fest!

Film Director N Chandra taking a Master class on film making

By Neeru Saluja

On 20-21 May, Macquarie University witnessed a weekend immersed in the culture and arts of eight South Asian countries. The first South Asia Film, Arts and Literature Festival (SAFAL) brought together the artists of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan on one platform to showcase their talent.

The brainchild of founder Ashish Gholkar, President of the Australian South Asian Forum and co-founder Kedar Pagaddinnimath, SAFAL celebrated cultural diversity and assimilation at it’s best. With months of hard work from the founders, Literature and Fine Arts Director Rekha Rajvanshi, Festival Director Nilal Jayasinghe, author Nim Gholkar, Professor Richie Howitt and Dr Iqbal Barkat from Macquarie University, the festival became a hub for art, music and literary lovers.

The festival kicked off with an opening address by MP John Alexander followed by viewing of the arts exhibition featuring renowned artists and a display from Macquarie University Art Collection. The festival had something for everyone, and most of the events were free of charge.

The film enthusiasts enjoyed screenings of Bollywood blockbuster Tezaab, Sinhalese hit Ho Gaana Pokuna followed by Q&A sessions with the directors N.Chandra and Indika Ferdinando. Sydney based director Julian Karikalan’s film ”˜Love and Love Only’ was also screened with the world premiere of short film ”˜An Invitation’ starring Rajat Kapoor. A short film competition drew a fair bit of attention amongst budding filmmakers. Director N Chandra of Tezaab fame who came all the way from India (thanks to Rass events) gave a masterclass to aspiring filmmakers while theatre expert Neel Banerjee conducted a drama workshop.

Ash Gholkar (right), President ASAF & Chairperson SAFAL with Kedar Pagaddinnimath

Book lovers and writers went for literature workshops to learn the tactics of self-publishing, writing in film and theatre, creative writing, non-fiction writing, relevance of poetry in today’s world, South Asian Australian writing and Emerging South Asia. And for those interested in the visual arts, there were dance performances, singing and an Afghan fashion show by Maryam Popal, SAFAL team member. The event was graced with the presence of dignitaries the Hon NSW Minister for Finance, Property and Services Victor Dominello, Ben Dorherty, Hamish Macdonald  both Walkley Award winning media persons.

One of the highlights of the festival was the awards night with ABC TV presenter Del Irani as the MC. Artists from various walks of life were awarded for their contribution at an evening which showcased dance and music performances from multicultural artists of great calibre. The festival concluded with a talent show judged by Jane Jeffes from ABC, Bollywood director Anil Chaudhary and Dr Madhvi Mohindra.

Says Ash Gholkar, “ASAF is delighted with the enthusiastic support and participation in SAFAL Fest 2017, not just of the South Asian but also wider Australian community. The festival is first of its kind with many innovative segments that  provided a platform to celebrate South Asian literature and the arts. Macquarie University with its strong South Asian links, has been a perfect partner to stage this vibrant, eclectic mix of films, literature, art, dance and music with artists hailing from Australia and abroad.”

The SAFAL team put their best foot forward to bring together the culture of eight countries for the first time ever in Australia. Gratified with the positive response of the festival, the founders are feeling richer after the experience. “It’s been a wonderful journey to bring the South Asian countries under a single platform through film, arts, literature and music for the first time ever. We are now richer and better for the experience!” Adding to this, Ash Gholkar, President ASAF and Chairperson SAFAL Fest says, “ASAF is delighted with the enthusiastic response and participation in SAFAL Fest 2017, not just of the South Asian communities but also the wider Australian community.

The festival is the first of its kind in the world and had many innovative segments. Macquarie University with its strong South Asian community links, was a perfect partner to stage this vibrant, harmonious celebration of films, literature, art, dance and music featuring a galaxy of stars and talent of South Asian heritage from Australia and overseas.”



Award night winners:

Lifetime Achievement award presentation ”“ director N Chandra

Appreciation award to ANASUYA SUBASINGHE, Indika Ferdinando and Anil Kumar Chaudhary

World Premiere Award – director Ruturaj Dhalgade for short film ”˜An Invitation’

Kumud Merani for contribution to broadcast journalism

Raghavan Nair for contribution to traditional Indian dance

Roy Gunaratne for contribution to the visual arts – photography

Adib Khan for contribution to literature

Rekha Rajvanshi for contribution to literature

Sirajus Salakin for contribution to music

Token of Appreciation to partners Macquarie University (Prof. Richie Howitt & Dr Iqbal Barkat), Rass Events (Vijay Gumber) and Chandrani Buddipala of CCT Migration

Short film winners:

1st place Jury prize plus audience choice prize:  Aayusyamaan Bhavah  with Arvind Babbal as Writer / Director

Runner up Jury prize:  Spotlight, directed by Tieri Cafe, with Kieran McGrath as Producer/1st AD  
Winners of the talent quest

Best Male Singer:      Winner:            Vikas Kolar                    Runners Up :  Thisal  Vidana

Best Female singer:   Winner:            Sumnima Singh            Runners Up     Dinali  Somweera

Best Solo Dancer      Winner:            Harsh Sharma                Runners Up     Sarangi Rupasinghe

Best Group Dance     Winner:     Wanigathunga Traditional

Sri Lankan Dance Group         Runners Up    Jigna Dance Group






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