SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — With a live performance, a load of stars, 14 feature films and eight shorts that appeal to every taste, this year’s 3rd i Film Festival is bringing the best of South Asian entertainment to San Francisco’s New People Cinema Oct. 22 to 25 — except for Oct. 24 screenings, which will be held at the Castro Theatre — before heading to CineArts at Palo Alto Square in Palo Alto, Calif., Nov. 1.
The festival begins with a solo screening of “Jai Ho,” a documentary on Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” composer A.R. Rahman, followed by a Skype Q&A session with the filmmaker, Umesh Aggarwal.
On Oct. 23 at 7:15 p.m., festivalgoers will be treated to a live performance of “Me, My Mom, and Sharmila,” a story about a mother and daughter’s attempt to connect over their shared love of Bollywood film star Sharmila Tagore, followed by a Q&A session with the Pakistani American writer-performer Fawzia Mirza.
Mirza can also be seen in two of the eight shorts — “Reclaiming Pakistan,” a documentary on civil rights activist Mohammad Jibran Nasir and the organization Pakistan for All, and “The First Session,” a comedic LGBT film about two women on their first date/psychiatric appointment — spotlighted in “Coast to Coast: Mumbai to the Mission” Oct. 25 at 5 p.m.
After Mirza’s life performance, Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or winner “Dheepan,” from French director Jacques Audiard, will reveal the struggle of a former soldier, young woman and little girl from Sri Lanka to adapt to the Parisian suburbs at 9:15 p.m.
Renowned Indian films “Haider,” “Kaaka Muttai,” “Tigers” and “PK” will take over the Castro Theatre, which will include a Q&A with the real-life subjects behind the story of “Tigers” after the screening at 6:30 p.m. and a special reception with food and drinks at 8 p.m.
Based on a true story of a Pakistani salesman who challenges the system after discovering the baby formula he is selling has devastating effects, Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic’s “Tigers” stars Bollywood star Emraan Hashmi and National Award-winning actress Geetanjali Thapa.
An even bigger star can be seen at 9 p.m. in the final film of the evening, “PK,” starring Aamir Khan as the titular PK, an inquisitive alien who lands on Earth and begins shaking up society.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Haider,” screening at 1 p.m., is a Bollywood adaptation of the Shakespearean classic “Hamlet,” while “Kaaka Muttai,” screening at 4:15 p.m., is the heartwarming tale of two young brothers from the slums seeking their first taste of pizza.
The final day of the San Francisco stretch of the festival will begin with the Bay Area premiere of director Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s “Labor of Love,” which won “Best Debut Director” at the Venice Film Festival, at 1 p.m.
The film with no spoken dialogue follows the lives of an ordinary couple in Calcutta whose competing work schedules keep them apart.
“Labor of Love” will be followed by director Prasanna Vithanage’s Sri Lankan documentary “Silence in the Courts,” documenting the quest two women’s quest for justice after being raped by the court judge presiding over their husbands’ cases, at 3 p.m.
“Punching at the Sun” director Tanuj Chopra’s work-in-progress comedy “[Brown Girl Stoner Film]” about a Ph.D. student whose fiancé wants her to deliver a bag of marijuana will end the San Francisco leg of the festival at 7 p.m. after “Coast to Coast: Mumbai to the Mission” at 5 p.m.
Vithanage and Chopra will hold Q&A sessions following their respective screenings, as well several Bay Area filmmakers featured in “Coast to Coast: Mumbai to the Mission.”
The Palo Alto rendition of the 3rd i Film Festival will begin with two documentaries and panel discussions on The Partition and gender equality.
Mara Ahmed’s “A Thin Wall” recounts the 1947 Partition that displaced 14 million people and cost more than 2 million people their lives. The screening at noon will be followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker organized by the 1947 Partition Archive.
Bay Area-based filmmaker Nyna Pais Caputi’s “Petals in the Dust,” a documentary exploring female infanticide and gender violence, will screen at 2:45 p.m. Caputi will be available for a Q&A afterward as well.
Those unable to catch “Jai Ho” the first time around will be able to catch it again at its 5:15 p.m. Palo Alto screening before the digitally-restored cult classic “Om Dar-B-Dar” from Kamal Swaroop, which tells the story of a young boy named Om interested in religion and magic, concludes the festival with a 7:15 p.m. screening.