Halwa HBO:

Indian American filmmaker Nirav Bhakta and Indo-Canadian filmmaker Gayatri Bajpai won the first prize for their short film, “Halwa,” at the 2019 Asian Pacific American Visionaries Short Film Competition. Seen are (l-r): Sujata Day, APA Visionaries 2019 Ambassador; Asit Vyas, lead actor; Vijaya (Vee) Kumari, lead actress; Bajpai, Bhakta, Jackie Gagne, vice president of multicultural marketing at HBO; and Rajendra Vora, founder and president of Beverly Hills Jain Social Group. (photo provided)

“Halwa,”a short film by Indian American filmmaker Nirav Bhakta and Indo- Canadian filmmaker Gayatri Bajpai, has won the highest honor at the third annual Asian Pacific American Visionaries, a short film competition that showcases cinematic storytellers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

The film, in which an Indian woman, played by Indian American actress Vijaya (Vee) Kumari, rekindles her relationship with a childhood sweetheart through Facebook messages, but her abusive husband takes notice, has won the first prize at the competition. (Read earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2PRmW3U)

The second spot went to director So Young Shelly Yo for “Moonwalk With Me,” while director Julie Zhan won the third prize for “Zoetic.”

Prior to the award presentation ceremony, the three films were screened at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood, Calif. It was followed by a Q&A session with the three finalists, moderated by Indian American actress Sujata Day, APA Visionaries 2019 Ambassador.

“The APA Visionaries program is meant to serve as a platform to tell authentic Asian Pacific American stories and HBO is incredibly proud to showcase the works of these inspiring filmmakers,” said Jackie Gagne, vice president of multicultural marketing at HBO. “We are seeing incredible momentum and are committed to providing more opportunities for rising filmmakers in this community.”

The finalists were selected from hundreds of submissions and were judged by a distinguished panel of HBO executives, industry leaders and fellow APA filmmakers.

In addition to being screened at the ongoing Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, HBO will debut the films on its on-demand and digital platforms in May, which is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

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