Silent River Film Festival Runs Deep

Newspapers have gone list-y. The narrative form that has served the publishing world for 2,000 years? Toss that out with your shine box, grandpa. Online threatens the printed page, lists equal views online, so the printed page figures it's better to follow than lead with what they've always done.

And so we come to this year's Silent River Film Festival, which runs Oct. 17 through 20 in Irvine, and this newspaper's desire to preview it for you, dear readers. Rather than watch hours of films and trailers, read reams of press notes, and conduct interviews that will all be boiled into an informative, narrative yarn . . . hey, gang, let's make another list!

Hell, let's let Silent River festival founder/director Kalpna Singh-Chitnis make the list. She does all the work, I get the byline, and with the online version, the Weekly gets the hits. It's win-win-win, baby!

Here, then, are five things Ms. Singh-Chitnis shot back when asked what will make Silent River 2013 great.

1. Non-profitness. Silent River Film Festival now is a nonprofit organization supported by the city of Irvine. It aims to bring “East and West” together to share their best works on film and “Cinema and Causes” on one platform to bring awareness about the issues that are important to us, as well as provide them active support.

2. World-wideness. This year, 17 countries are participating with 83 films. New additions to the festival are screenplay and music-video competitions and the Film Fair, with seminars, panel discussions, special screenings, exhibits, raffles, food and live entertainment. It is on the last day of the festival, is at the Irvine Civic Center, is free to all and concludes with a Red Carpet Awards Night Gala.

3. Movie-watchingness. There are too many films for 2013 to highlight here. But Josh (Against the Grain), directed by Iram Parveen Bilal, is a tribute to all innocent victims of retribution crime in feudal Pakistan and the youth movement against class separation, poverty, illiteracy and suppression of women's rights. It's making its U.S. festival premiere and is considered the opening-night film from the East. The opening-night picture from the West, making its West Coast premiere, is Harmony: A New Way of Looking At Our World, which was directed by Stuart Sender and is inspired by the life and work of Prince Charles, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. The documentary Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey—which was directed by Wendy J.N. Lee, produced by actress Michelle Yeoh and narrated by actress Daryl Hannah—follows 700 people trekking across the Himalayas with a call to save the planet's “third pole,” a glacial region now devastated by the climate chaos associated with global warming. The festival's Feature Showcase includes Lootera, which is based on O. Henry's story “The Last Leaf”; the film was directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and stars Bollywood mega-stars Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha and Adil Hussain of Life of Pi. And there's Anita Ho, which was directed by Steve Myung and features Elizabeth Sung (Memoirs of a Geisha), Raymond Ma (Lethal Weapon, NYPD Blues), Steve Myung, Lina So and popular rapper James To. (Visit for the full list.)

4. Celebrity-ness. Confirmed to attend on opening night are Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Sally Kirkland, who stars in the festival film Posey, and the band the Kin, who are flying from Australia for the festival premiere of their music video “Get On It” and short film The Price, both of which screen on opening night. Also coming that night are Harmony director Stuart Sender and producer Julie Bergman Sender, who are also the filmmakers behind The Vow, the Academy Award-nominated Prisoners of Paradise and G.I. Jane. Iram Parveen Bilal, the director of Josh (Against the Grain) and an emerging filmmaker in Pakistan, will attend not only opening night, but also Awards Night, a filmmaking seminar and a panel discussion.

5. Un-greatness. Yes, this is supposed to be a list of great things, but it must be pointed out that there was a lack of support from sponsors, the local business community, art organizations and many community leaders (not to be mistaken for the city of Irvine). It is a shame! Silent River organizers tried very hard to reach out to everyone, but they experienced a very dismissive attitude! It has been like going against tides or digging an oasis in the desert of OC. The audiences are the ultimate supporters of the Silent River Film Festival, as well as the Cinema for Causes Fundraising Campaign at Indiegogo (visit

Thanks, Ms. Singh-Chitnis! Hey, one good list deserves another. Here are five things at this year's festival that peaked the interest of your humble reporter:

1. Journo wars. I love the coverage of fracking—drilling into the earth to unleash oil and earthquakes—by Weekly contributor Brandon Ferguson. So I'd pay to watch the look on his face while he views the documentary feature FrackNation, which follows journalist Phelim McAleer facing “gun threats, malicious 911 calls and bogus lawsuits when questioning green extremists for the truth about fracking,” according to producers.

2. Empty pockets. There are small-budget films, low-budget films and micro-budget films. Keep dropping lower to get to LA-by-way-of-Midwest filmmaker Jason Eberly's Dead Drop. He claims to have spent just $97 to make the short film that, thanks to the beautiful San Diego backdrop and beautiful actor/dancers Carlos Barrionuevo and Mayte Valdes, looks like a million bucks. Ironically, the same creative team, right down to the actor/dancers, made the high-budget (and award-winning short) Niña Del Tango, which screened at April's Newport Beach Film Festival.

3. Reds. Valenti Figueres' feature drama The K. Effect: Stalin's Editor imagines a childhood friend of agitprop filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein being recruited by the Kremlin to spy on the ol' “Father of the Montage” during the first decades of the USSR. The assignment takes the spy to the U.S. (where he helps start the Great Depression!), North Africa and the country from where Figueres' picture hails, Spain.

4. Senior projects. The documentary short A Second Chance, which explores and pays tribute to service dogs that help war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, earned director David Aristizabal, a 2012 USC grad, a first-place award at this year's 40th Student Academy Awards. The Oscars-sanctioned awards recognize the outstanding work film students create before they finish school.

5. Celebrity-ness II. Awards Night is worth a visit just to see if previously announced recipients will show up: Prince Charles (River Spirit Award), Michelle Yeoh and Daryl Hannah (River Glory Award), His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa (River Admiration Award), Dusty Brandom (River Spirit Award for Youth), Irina Maleeva (River Symphony Award), and Carlos Barrionuevo and Mayte Valdes (River Rhythm Award).


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