Tasveer South Asian Film Festival sheds light on underrepresented stories

TSAFF focuses on Pakistan in this year’s film festival.

Sharing stories and creating community have been the main goals of the Tasveer for the past 16 years.

Launched shortly after the events of 9/11, co-founders Rita Meher and Farah Nousheen were tired of being subject to hate slurs and prejudices because of their cultural backgrounds. They sought for understanding and support only to find nothing.

In 2002, Meher and Nousheen founded the organization to offer other South Asians a place to share their stories.

Due to the overwhelming response from the community, the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (TSAFF) launched in 2004. This is their 13th year.

“Sharing stories through film is a great way to share experiences and bring people together,” Meher said. “We show films that accurately depict current events…it was a way for us to talk about what we were going through and have a support system.”

Sixty-five films will be presented this year from approximately 35 filmmakers. Selecting films for the festival always provides a challenge, according to program director Laila Kazmi, because they want to make sure the films will engage the community.

“We are bringing you some of the best, most unique films to come out of South Asia in the last year, particularly from Pakistan and you won’t see them anywhere else in Seattle except at the Tasveer festival,” Kazmi said in a press release. “All of the films are there to engage the community, make people think and ask questions.”

Each year, the festival strives to highlight one of eight South Asian countries. This year, the festival is highlighting Pakistan.

“We put a focus on one of eight South Asian countries because they’re small and they often get lost and forgotten about,” Meher said. “We chose Pakistan because of what’s going on currently with all the retrogression and Islamophobia that’s going on so we wanted to combat that and show stories that are not usually represented in media.”

#KnowMe is part of this year’s theme with Pakistan. The hashtag works to promote the idea of reducing prejudices and knowing people as they are.

“We just wanted people to know us through our stories,” Kazmi said.

The festival begins Sept. 28 and goes through Oct. 7. Films will be presented in Bothell, Bellevue, Seattle and Redmond. The full schedule of events can be found at https://tsaff.tasveer.org/2018/

The festival will be host to several critically acclaimed films such as “Cake,” “Do We Belong? and “My Pure Land” — an Oscar entry in the foreign language category.

Aside from presenting shorts and feature films, the festival program will include virtual reality programs as well as panel discussions.

While organizing the largest nonprofit South Asian film festival in the country provides its share of challenges, such as fundraising and filmmakers being denied access into the country, Meher said the festival’s rewards outweigh its challenges.

“It’s so great to see the community come together. There have been many times people have said they enjoy living here when they know there’s organizations like Tasveer here,” she said. “We have been able to push people to think about serious issues that affect other parts of the world. We’ve been able to educate the community at large about other cultures.”

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