Pa Ranjith receiving standing ovation after screening of Kaala at a Dalit International film festival
Amidst an enthusiastic crowd thronging the screenings at Barnard College (Columbia University) and The New School, the first Dalit Film and Cultural Festival (DALIFF) came to fruition in New York City. The DALIFF, organized by US Ambedkarites, was conceived by the Dr. Ambedkar International Mission, USA (AIM). It aimed to establish an independent genre of filmmaking entitled “Dalit Cinema”.
The festival, which attracted an audience from across the United States and Canada, began at 10 at Barnard College on Feb. 23. Milind Awasarmol, a member of the organizing committee, welcomed the audience and emphasized the importance of holding the festival in New York at Columbia University, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s alma mater. Paying tribute to Raju Kamble, the founder of the AIM, USA, the speech set the tone for the two-day event which showcased 6 feature films, 2 short films, 5 documentaries, 2 documentary trailers and 1 television series from Nepal.
Artwork by noted Dalit artists was exhibited alongside the film screenings as an additional ode to Dalit creativity. Artists include Aditya Chauhan, Ajit Choudhary, Seema Gondane, Vikram Nikose, Vijay Awatare, Shridhar Ambhore, Jaya Dorande, Vaishali Pakhale, Anil Dhurve, Anitha Ranjith, Nitin Bhalerao, Ajay Meshram, Malvika Raj, Vipul Shende, Pravin Tayade, Anand Shende, and Lokesh Kamble. The artwork exhibit, as well as the Dalit literature and journalism display, was handled by the team headed by Nandita Pantawane.
Pariyerum Perumal, a critically acclaimed Tamil language movie directed by Mari Selvaraj and produced by Pa Ranjith inaugurated the festival. In addition, the world premiere of Nagraj Manjule’s Indian National Award-winning short film Paavsacha Nibandh (An Essay About the Rain) received thundering applause from the audience even as they were wiping their tears as the lights were turned back on.
The screening of Kaala held the audience spellbound. As the final credits of Kaala started rolling, director Pa Ranjith received a standing ovation, with the viewers spontaneously chanting “Kaala”.