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Courtesy of Tasveer South Asian Film Festival

Tasveer, the largest South Asian film festival in the United States, has one main goal: Engage the community. Based in Redmond, the 12th annual festival (which also hosts year-round programming at venues like the Bellevue Art Museum) opens on October 6 and will highlight films from Nepal. Their community engagement seems to be working—submissions are up 42 percent from last year, and most of their growth has come from new artists. Their screenings are accompanied by discussions with filmmakers or representatives from relevant local organizations. No matter the focus, they want to give audiences the chance to talk and think things through.

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The idea that would eventually become Tasveer took off just after 9/11. Founders Rita Mehar and Farah Nousheen came together to process their emotions, and decided they wanted to create a space where they could meet and talk with other South Asian people, immigrants, and people of color. At the press preview, Rita Mehar said, “[9/11] really forced us to think about our identities as South Asian women and South Asian immigrants living in this country. We wanted to do something more than just having a paycheck and living day-to-day life.”

Tasveer is the opposite of a mindless rut—every screening, talk, and exhibit is full of intention and intellectual curiosity. In addition to the 18 features and 38 shorts, appearances from several dozen filmmakers (including super-famous Aparna Sen), and galas (of course), they’re offering a day-long symposium titled “Boundaries and Belongings,” presented in partnership with the South Asia Center at the University of Washington.

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At every screening, you’ll be able to pick up some VR headsets at a booth and experience flood waters in Bihar, India, or view a photography exhibit about women in Nepal living in monthly exile during their periods. While the festival is broad in its scope—love stories, sports movies, comedies—the organizers excel at highlighting films that explore prejudice, human rights, and the environment, and they’re quick to call out intolerant patterns in their own communities. They’ve featured many LGBTQ stories over the years and October’s lineup offers nine (the same number allotted to the official theme, Nepal).

About the organization, Rita Mehar said: “We wanted to make our own platform, not wait for others to invite us to tell our stories—or for others to tell our stories. We have to tell our own stories. We have to create our own platform. Ever since then, every film, every story we tell, every program we do, we have to have passion behind it.”

See Movie Times for more information about the largest South Asian film festival in the United States.