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January 15, 2000
Chutney Popcorn Bound For Berlin
One of the youngest film-makers in America, Nisha Ganatra, will have her first feature film competing at one of the oldest and most respected film festivals in the world.
Ganatra, 26, was introducing the film at its first public screening in New York City when she announced that Chutney Popcorn has been selected to participate in the competitive section of this year's Berlin Film International Festival. The 50th Berlinale runs from February 9 to 20.
The screening, organized by the Asia Society and New York Women in Film and Television, was held at the Cantor Film Center, New York University.
"We are absolutely thrilled to be making our international premiere at one of the best film festivals in the world," Ganatra told rediff.com
Chutney Popcorn has already been screened in the US at film festivals in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Newport, Rhode Island.
In the last few months Chutney Popcorn has received a lot of positive press. The Hollywood Reporter called the film a 'breezy engaging comedy-drama.' The Daily Variety called it 'an extremely likable film; a very good comedy,' where 'you can rarely see a punch line coming.' The newspaper added, 'one of delights of (the film's) script is the consistency with which it manages to surprise.'
Ganatra added that the Berlin selection would make it a lot easier for her to find a distributor for the small, independently produced film. Chutney Popcorn is produced by Susan Carnival (who also co-wrote the film with Ganatra) and Trina Wyatt of the Tribeca Film Center, a production company run by actor Robert De Niro in New York City.
What does a first-time film-maker, whose film stars mostly unknown actors, do to qualify for the Berlin Film Festival?
"You apply," Ganatra said in her unique humorous style. "Then you pray. Then you call your mom and ask her to pray. Then we all just kept praying until the festival let us in."
Chutney Popcorn is the story of a single Indian mother in New York (played by Madhur Jaffrey) and her two daughters -- the younger (Ganatra herself), a rebellious photographer and henna-tattoo artist, who lives with her American lesbian lover in Brooklyn, and the older (Madhur's real-life daughter Sakina), who marries an American man immersed in Indian culture. The story line follows the mother's obsession to see her daughters get married and produce grandchildren for her.
Last summer, in an interview with rediff.com Ganatra had said the film is autobiographical in that her own mother cannot wait for her to get married and have children. The film-maker and her producers have dedicated Chutney Popcorn to their respective mothers.
Ganatra said she planned to go to Berlin with several of her cast members, including Sakina Jaffrey, Jill Hennessy and Cara Buono. She added that Madhur Jaffrey, who won the best actress award at the Berlin Film Festival for the Merchant-Ivory film, Heat and Dust, in the eighties, may also join the group.
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