Tomorrow “Soma Girls” will screen at the 2010 annual Mecal International Short Film Festival in Barcelona. Nandini is there babysitting the film and will, presumably, participate in a Q&A after the screening. Once she sends me an update about the screening and the fest I’ll post it here!!!


March 17, 2010

Hi everyone! I hope this blog post finds you all doing well and thinking wonderful thoughts for the girls of Soma Home, the subjects of our film! 🙂

The film continues to do well. About one month ago we got in to the Mecal International Shorts Film Festival in Barcelona which will take place next month–mid April. Nandini will be going to the fest and I will be staying behind… 😦 I’m sad to be missing out on what will be an amazing experience, but its great that one of us will be able to support the film.

For my part, I’ve been fielding requests for and giving talks after small, private screenings of the film. We’re still hammering out details of a contract with one of our grantors and so we can’t release the film publicly yet, but we hope to do small “house party”-type of screenings to inform folks about these wonderful girls, the work that Urmi Basu and New Light are doing, and to communicate that India is much more than a place where there is terrible poverty. One of the things I say in my post-screening Q&As, actually, is “Go to India!” I want people to visit so they can see how wonderful and beautiful it is.

That’s all for now. Best wishes to everyone!


April in Spain!

Nandini and I just got word that “Soma Girls” was accepted into the 12 Mecal International Short Film Festival in Barcelona! April in Spain! Sweet! But before we go running off to Europe there are a few errands to attend to…

We need to add some credits to the film and tweak a couple of the shots which means going back to our wonderful post-production pals at Frame:Runner, NYC. We’ll also need to, y’know, rustle-up some cash for the flight & hotel in Spain. Eek. I thankfully have peeps in Barcelona so I’m definitely going to hit them up for a couch to crash on.

Anyone who’s going to be in Barcelona in early April let us know!!!

This morning Nandini and I both realized we had butterflies, also that I still didn’t really have anything to wear. After a long breakfast and a fair bit of running around, fielding phone calls, replying to email, etc. we set off for The Quad. I met my friend Margee and the Soma Girls legal/outreach coordinator, Prathima, for lunch at Bar Six down the street and thought I’d have plenty of time and chill to chat, enjoy some food, etc. before heading up the street to the screening. Well, Margee had to bust out early to pick up something for her son, and so Prathima and I helped ourselves to a second beer. Maybe not the bvery best idea right before my world premiere… 😉

Anyway, all went well until we realized we were about to be almost late. We paid the bill, ran the hell out of there and arrived at a PACKED theatre. Seriously. Our freakin’ screening was ten seats away from being sold out. I heard Rani, the young volunteer in charge that day mutter “holy cow” as she scanned the large crowd buzzing excitedly before the lights went down. It was so nuts just before showtime that I didn’t even get to meet Sweta, the director of Sixteen Blades of Grass, the film that was screened with ours.

As the lights went down the audience applauded. Later Nandini would tell me how shocked and proud she was of that moment. There were a lot of our friends in the audience and I think the positive energy had just burned through everyone as they were sitting down. 🙂

Sitting in the dark of The Quad Theatre watching my own film, but also watching others react to it… is something I’ll never do justice describing. I was moved by how intently everyone was listening to the story. You could hear them listening. It was awesome. Everyone laughed in all the right places, and muttered amazement and sadness in all the right places. After the credits the applause was beautiful… 🙂

During the Q&A we were lucky enough to have Soma Home founder & trustee, Urmi Basu, in attendace. The three of us, along with Sweta, fielded questions about the safety of filming in Kolkata’s red light areas, of the state of the Indian education system, and of hope. The overall message was that our films had done their jobs: exposed some issues that need much greater discussion. It was a very fulfilling experience.

After the Q&A Nandini and I talked with lots of new “Soma Girls” fans and made some wonderful contacts which we are already following up on. I would like to say thank you to everyone who attended the screening, and everyone who has provided support. I would also like to thank Sakhi for moderating the Q&A, and Sweta for making a wonderful film and sharing the event with us.

Go Team Soma Girls!!!


Day 2 of the festival saw Nandini and I splitting up. She was a trooper and stayed home to work on grant/legal things, while I played the care-free fool and spent the day listening to the amazing Mira Nair. Ms. Nair was at the fest to give a talk on short films, so this wasn’t anything I was going to miss. She loves the form and has made a ton of shorts, some of whcih she showed during her talk. She has a lot of energy and a very “no bullshit” style of planning, directing & teaching, so the day was more like a class than a boring-old “let me talk about fabulous I am” film talk. 🙂

Favorite quotes from Ms. Nair’s talk:

“I am devoted to the idea of making things, and to the rigor of creating short films.”

“Short films [give you] the chance to play with something that’s burning you up.”

“Short films give you the chance to work with actors and crew that you love.”

“Filmmaking is all about pre-planning and not losing the playfulness.”

“Making a film is an incredibly brave thing to do. Unfortunately, to be brave comes with pain.”

After her talk on short films, we watched Ms. Nair’s seminal film “Salaam Bombay!” which I had never seen. It’s a beautiful, beautiful film, but not for the faint of heart…

We ended Day 2 by eating in and gong to bed early, as the following day would be… our world premiere… 🙂


Hey everyone! Yesterday was the first day of the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival. It should be noted off the bat that the administration and staff of this incredible festival is 100% volunteer! Remember that this is the festival that brought us “Slumdog Millionaire,” so you can see what a hell of a lot of passionate elbow grease can bring!

So, yesterday Nandini and I got all dolled-up and headed off to the gala opening night event at the Paris Theatre on 58th, a venerated spot right off Central Park. I used to go to the Paris a lot when I lived in NYC, so it was a thrill to be a part of something so grand in one of my old haunts.

We walked the red carpet and got our picture taken, even though we’re just a tiny, documentary film. The fest has been lovely with us, treating us and our “little film that could” with great respect. 🙂

Next, we handed out a few postcards and Nandini reconnected with a lot of folks she hasn’t seen in a while. One was her cousin who, after the fest, is off to Kolkata to make her second film. I’m already jealous… After the schmoozing we saw the opening night film, “Today’s Special,” which starred Daily Show regular Assif Mandvi. It was very funny and poignant.

I forgot to mention that the evening was opened by a beautiful singer who first sang a traditional Indian song, and then launched into “America The Beautiful.” Both songs were backed by the classic Indian drone of an electronic tanpura. Gorgeous. After each individual song she then did a kind of mashup of the two. It was beautiful and the audience was entranced. It was the perfect way to open the festival. Simple, beautiful. 🙂

You can follow our festival progress on twitter as well at @lextopia. I’m using hashtags #SomaGirls and #miaac.

Now off to Day 2!

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