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  • 11th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), May 4-8, 2011

    Posted by Lia Chang

    From May 4-8, 2011, the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) presents the 11th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), the oldest and most prestigious Indian film festival in the country, with 25 feature films, documentaries, and shorts from and about the Indian subcontinent screening over five days. NYIFF features a mix of film screenings, discussions, industry panels, nightly parties, an awards ceremony, and gala red carpet events.

    The U.S. premiere of Disney’s Do Dooni Chaar directed by Habib Faisal and starring Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, kicks off the New York Indian Film Festival with a star-studded Opening Night red carpet at the Paris Theatre in Manhattan, followed by a gala benefit dinner at the Jumeirah Essex House. H.E. Meera Shankar, India’s Ambassador to the United States, will deliver the welcome address. Film festival screenings will take place from May 5 through May 8 at Tribeca Cinemas, including the Centerpiece selection – the New York Premiere of Aparna Sen’s Iti Mrinalini , followed by an afterparty at Tribeca Bar. The Festival’s Closing night selection, the U.S. Premiere of Rituparno Ghosh’s Nauka Dubi, will screen at Asia Society followed by the annual awards ceremony and afterparty. In addition, the festival is hosting an exclusive celebrity-filled celebration honoring the 150th anniversary of the birth of India’s legendary Nobel Prize-winning artist and poet Rabinranath Tagore at Asia Society on May 8.

    Making its U.S. Premiere will be Sudhir Mishra’s acclaimed romantic crime drama Yeh Saali Zindagi starring Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, The Namesake). Legendary actress Shabana Azmi stars in the cross-cultural love story A Decent Arrangement which makes its World Premiere. And movie fans will get to go back in time with Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan with the New York Premiere of Raakh Redux, the digitally remastered version of the actor’s early hit which won three National Film Awards.

    NYIFF will also showcase...

  • Vikas Khanna’s documentary Holy Kitchens – Karma to Nirvana, premieres at the New York Indian Film Festival on May 7 at Tribeca Cinemas

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Chef Vikas Khanna Photo by Lia Chang

    Celebrity Chef Vikas Khanna’s documentary Holy Kitchens – Karma to Nirvana, the second installment in the series which focuses specifically on Hinduism, Lord Krishna’s spiritual practices, and the principles of KARMA and NIRVANA as set forth in the Bhagavad-Gita, will premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival on Saturday, May 7, 2011, at 12:30 p.m. in Tribeca Cinemas’ Theater TWO (54 Varick Street). Click here to purchase tickets.

    “God comes to the hungry in the form of food,” said the ‘Father of India’ Mahatma Gandhi. It is this philosophy which has compelled Chef Vikas Khanna to explore the symbiotic intersection of food and religion in his documentary series Holy Kitchens. “At any given time somewhere on Earth, people are gathering to share food in the name of God. This is spiritual sustenance, meant to bring us closer together and closer to the Creator,” says Khanna. “This is the story of Holy Kitchens.”The film features interviews with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Arun Gandhi, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Shaunaka Rishi Das, Aroon Shivdasani, Lynn McGuire, Scott Carney and Anju Bhargava. It is written and narrated by Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn, directed by Anubhav Bhardwaj, and co-directed by Francisco Aguila. Karma to Nirvana is a Junoon Hospitality presentation.

    Vikas Khanna’s journey in the documentary takes us right into the soup kitchens of Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi’s ashram in Kerala, where Amma blesses thousands of people daily with motherly hugs and serves them meals with her own hands. “We have to help the hungry as best we can,” says Amma. “We have to see that feeding the hungry is no less than the worship of God.”Subsequently, the documentary highlights the magnanimous charity work of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Delhi and other parts of the world. Their “Food for All” programs feed hundreds of thousands of hungry children and adults,...

  • House of Payne’s Denise Burse chats up the 2011 NAACP Image Awards and Season 7

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Photo by Lia Chang

    Since 2006, Denise Burse has been serving up sass and displaying an outrageous flair for fashion as Claretha Jenkins, Ella Payne’s best friend on Tyler Perry’s award-winning TV show House of Payne, which began airing new episodes on March 30th.

    Fresh from the Atlanta set of House of Payne, the award-winning actress was a vision in a cream colored tuxedo when we attended a concert performance by Marva Hicks in Pat Holley’s Me and Caesar Lee at the Triad Theatre in New York earlier this month.

    (l-r) Lia Chang, Peter Jay Fernandez, Denise Burse and Marva Hicks after the concert presentation of Pat Holley's Me and Caesar Lee at The Triad Theatre in New York on April 3, 2011.

    Burse hinted at big developments in Season 7 for Claretha and talked about the festivities of the 2011 NAACP Image Awards in L.A.

    “It’s been really hair raising,” said Burse. “I can’t give too much away until they start the new season. She’s in a very interesting storyline. I can only urge you to tune in because many eyebrows will be raised.”

    Click here to watch “Payneful Visit,” the episode where Claretha reveals she has leukemia.

    About Claretha, Burse shared, “She’s funny, she’s sassy, very sensitive. She is a woman who likes being in love, and has been hurt many times as a result. She has a great big heart. She loves her friends deeply and loyally. She has a sense of flair. I wear outrageous gear and change my hair to fit my outfit. From head to toe. She is always dolled up.”

    In March, Tyler Perry and House of Payne won a host of awards at the 2011 NAACP Image Awards, including the 2011 NAACP Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. The Image Awards, first presented in 1967, were launched by the NAACP to celebrate “outstanding achievements by people of color in film, television, music and literature, as well as individuals or groups who promote social justice.”

    It was a first for Ms. Burse at the NAACP Images Awards which were held at...

  • Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture:“The Legacies of Donald Keene” Symposium at Columbia University

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Professor Donald Keene (Photo courtesy of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture)

    New York—March 24, 2011—In 2011, the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture celebrates a quarter-century of free programs dedicated to introducing Japanese culture, in all its depth and diversity, to new audiences. In addition, 2011 marks the last time that Professor Donald Keene, whose work inspired the founding of the Center, will teach a class at Columbia University, which has been his academic home since 1938.

    To commemorate this doubly memorable occasion, the Donald Keene Center, through the generous support of the Japan Foundation, will feature a symposium on “The Legacies of Donald Keene” at Columbia University on Friday, April 15, 2011. The symposium is from 1:00pm to 3:00pm in the Kent Hall Lounge (403 Kent Hall). Speakers include Karen Brazell, Van Gessel, Carol Gluck, Amy Heinrich, Susan Matisoff, and Carolyn Morley, all of whose distinguished careers in the Japanese Studies field began in one of Professor Keene’s classrooms. Drawing on personal experiences, the speakers will address Professor Keene’s unique pedagogy and long-term contributions to the field of Japanese Studies. This symposium is open to the general public. Reservation are not required, please arrive early to secure a seat.

    As part of the Donald Keene Center’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, a special exhibition of selected items generously donated by Professor Keene over the course of several decades will be on view from April 15 in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. These items include Professor Keene’s personal correspondence with such celebrated Japanese writers as Abe Kobo, Kawabata Yasunari, Mishima Yukio, Oe Kenzaburo, and Tanizaki Jun’ichiro.

    About Professor Donald KeeneDonald Keene received his B.A. (1942), M.A. (1947), and Ph.D. (1949) degrees from Columbia University, and his Litt. D. from Cambridge University in 1978. He is the recipient of the Kikuchi Kan Prize of the...

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 30th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival: April 30 and May 1, 2011

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden © Lia Chang

    The Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrates their 30th Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, April 30th and Sunday, May 1, 2011. The two day festival will feature the best of both traditional and contemporary Japanese arts and culture, including dance, martial arts, manga, costume play (“cosplay”), workshops, demonstrations, and guided tours of the Garden’s Japanese plant collections.

    Among the more than 60 events and performances on the schedule for 2011 are a host of new features, including a performance by Morning Musuko, a 15-member brassy J-pop big band; a specially commissioned contemporary dance work by the respected Saeko Ichinohe Dance Company; and a Puzzle Plaza where visitors can immerse themselves in with Sudoku, kakuro, LaQ and the legendary game of go.

    Returning favorites include performances by Okinawan-pop stars happyfunsmile and martial artists Samurai Sword Soul, plentiful manga and anime activities including signings by famed manga artists and a live collaboration between Veronica Taylor (the voice of Pokemon) and artist Misako Rocks!, and several hands-on activities for kids to enjoy.

    Weeping Cherry Trees in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. © Lia Chang

    During this season celebrating its historic relationship to Japanese culture and horticulture, the Garden reflects on the recent tragic events in Japan, and invites visitors to find opportunities for contemplation amidst its flowering cherries, Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the bonsai exhibition Graceful Perseverance, and more. At Sakura Matsuri, visitors will be invited to make an origami crane that will eventually join thousands of others sent to Japan as a gesture of support and unity.

    Festival hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. All activities take place rain or shine, with indoor locations provided for most...

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