Frank F. Islam
At the closing ceremony of 6th DCSAFF
Thank you, Manoj, for that kind introduction.
Let me begin by acknowledging Manoj and Geeta for putting together another great edition for this DC South Asian Film Festival. We are deeply grateful to both of them.
For the sixth year in a row at this Festival, you have showcased the best of independent cinema from the subcontinent – proving that film from there is much more than Bollywood – so much more. Let us all give a big round of applause to Geeta and Manoj.
At the outset, I also want to thank my good friend Dr. Sanjay Rai and the Montgomery College for partnering with the Film Festival for the second successive year. Thanks Sanjay.
Finally, my thanks to all of you in attendance this evening. My special thanks to those of you who have been long time supporters of the DC South Asian Film Festival.
As I mentioned, this is the 6th Festival. I have now been at and spoken in the closing ceremonies for three festivals. But, I know there are many of you here tonight who have participated in four festivals or more? I applaud all of you for your dedication and commitment to this tremendous festival.
Over the past five years, the DC South Asian Film Festival has brought, a wide spectrum of movies and an array of talents from India, Pakistan and other countries of South Asia to Washington, DC. The movies the Festival brought us included a number of classics that had never been screened publicly in this area.
Because of this festival, lovers of South Asian and South Asian American movies have had the privilege of interacting with cinema giants such as Shyam Benegal, Prakash Jha and Aparna Sen. The Festival has also brought us unique acting talents like Nandita Das, Manisha Koirala, and the late Farook Shaikh.
Now, this year, the Festival brings us another legend of Indian cinema — the one and only Zeenat Aman.
Let me say a few words about and to Zeenat.
Zeenat, you defined girlhood and womanhood for generations of South Asians. Young and old alike cried when you cried on screen, and they laughed when you laughed.
On a personal note, Zeenat, I must tell you that growing up my favorite movie was Mughal-e-Azam, Your late father, Amanulla Khan, wrote the script for that film. Mughal-e-Azam was a piece of India I carried in my heart and soul when I came here as a student from India. Mughal-e-Azam is still etched in my memory.
Zeenat, all of us sincerely thank you for coming and being an active participant in this festival. It means the world to have you and your son, Azaan Khan, the director of the movie, Bankster, here with us as part of this celebration,
I also want to recognize all of the filmmaker and actors who are with us here for this celebration. They include but are not limited to: the beautiful and talented Tannishtha Chatterjee; versatile Ananth Mahadevan and Kavi Raz; directors Mehreen Jabbar and Azaan Khan; and, actors Azaan Khan, Adil Hussain and Faizan Khawaja and Akash Dhar.
Thanks to all of you for taking time from your very hectic schedule to be with and to educate us about your works, your industry, and art and cinema, in general.
Let’s give a big round of applause to the directors, actors and artists who shared their gifts with and provided us a great visual and intellectual treat in the three days of this festival.
As in past festivals, this festival featured a broad range of films including statement movies such as Lipstick Under My Burkha, which resulted in a vibrant discussion about the role of women in Indian society. I understand that it had some trouble with India’s film censor board, but I am glad that it did very well in the box office.
The success of Lipstick and other similar independent movies once again prove that art and cinema can be very effectively used for social purposes.
As I said at a past Film Festival, my wife Debbie and I are firm believers of using art: to highlight social causes and increase public awareness about them; and, to make our communities and society better. Art plays a pivotal role in connecting, inspiring, and engaging communities. It has a unifying and healing power. The art transcends all boundary. It represents the very best of our humanity.
That’s the reason art and culture, along with education, is one of the areas of focus for our Foundation. That’s why we are proud to be a partner of the DC South Asian Film Festival.
Debbie and I believe that a civilization is defined by the level of sophistication of its arts and culture. No one described the link between art and civilization better than President John F. Kennedy, who once said that the “future of our country and our civilization” depended on the “full recognition of the place of the artist.”
As some of you are aware, I am a huge fan of President Kennedy, whose appreciation of art is well-known. A grateful nation recognized that when it named one of America’s most iconic cultural institutions after him: The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. I have the privilege and honor to serve on the Board of Directors of the Kennedy Center
As I conclude, let me leave you with one final thought borrowed from President Kennedy.
Paying tributes to his friend, the poet, Robert Frost, the President said that Frost “saw poetry as the means of saving power from itself.”
President Kennedy further stated and I quote: “When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”
Ladies and gentleman, what President Kennedy so eloquently declared about poetry is just as true of art and cinema.
In these trying times when power seems to be the ultimate aphrodisiac, we need more poetry. We need more art. We need more cinema. We need more people willing to speak truth to power.
Once again, I thank Manoj and Geeta for inviting me to speak today. It has been my pleasure to be and share my thoughts in this closing ceremony. God bless you all!