By Joel Hall
The third annual Atlanta Indo-American Film Festival (AIAFF) has given audiences around metro Atlanta a window into the complex culture of India.
This weekend, in the last stop on the festival's month-long tour, the five unique, award-winning documentaries will be screened at Clayton State University.
Starting at noon on Saturday, the AIAFF will show the following films: "Pancham Unmixed," a documentary about the life of Indian film, music composer, Rahul Dev Burman (12:05 p.m.) ; "The Widow Colony," a documentary exploring the living conditions of widows and children of murdered Sikh men in New Delhi, 22 years after their deaths (2:15 p.m.); "Two Million Minutes," a close comparison of the education systems of China, India, and America as seen through the eyes of six students (3:30 p.m.); "Super 30," a documentary set in the impoverished Bihar state of India, where a math teacher chooses 30 promising students and prepares them for the rigorous entrance exams to the Indian Institute of Technology (5:30 p.m.); and "The Making of Swapna Vijayam (Indian Nutcracker)," an adaptation of the famous Tchaikovsky ballet into the south Indian classical dance form of "Kuchipudi" (6:30 p.m.).
C.R. Narayanaswamy, associate professor of finance at the Clayton State University School of Business, said "more movies are produced in India than anywhere else." Serving as the academic advisor to the university's South Asian culture club, "Sangam" (a Sanskrit word for "meeting place"), Narayanaswamy said the films give the public "exposure to how things are in another part of the world.
"Regardless of what the basic theme is, it provides a window to the current culture," said Narayanaswamy. "Many students have expressed interest in going on the study abroad trip to India. The movies probably create more awareness about that."
Since the 2003-04 school year, study-abroad enrollment at Clayton State University has increased by 336 percent. Jacob Chacko, dean of the CSU School of Business, said the film festival may spark even more interest in the study-abroad programs.
"Unfortunately, we cannot take all of our students abroad," said Chacko. "[The film festival] is a great way for us to have multicultural understanding at the university. Hindi movies, for the longest time, have been a great way to convey Indian culture around the world."
Chacko said movies like "Two Million Minutes," put a spotlight on the growing crisis in America, in which American students are loosing their academic edge to developing powers such as India and China. He believes the films will make the American public more aware of the challenges facing the international community.
"In the U.S., we tend to be insulated from the world," said Chacko. "There are 15 different languages [in India]. These movies from different parts of India will display different parts of Indian culture. I hope that people will take the time to see this, because it's a great learning experience."
Tickets are $8 per screening for the general public. For more information, call (770) 310-3998 or visit http://www.iafs.us/AIAFF.