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ARKIB : 09/08/2004

Canada's Hollywood North turns Bollywood West

TORONTO Aug 8 - From Hollywood North to Bollywood West - Toronto, which already serves as a vast outdoor movie set for huge US studios, is looking east, with the largest South Asian film festival outside India.

``Our mission is to eventually create the Sundance of Hollywood,'' Mohit Rajhans, co-founder of the Filmi South Asian Film Festival told AFP, referring to Robert Redford's powerful showcase for independent movies.

This year's Filmi, which started Friday and runs until August 15 will highlight 25 features, documentaries, shorts and animations from six countries, India, Britain, United States, Canada, Germany and Thailand.

That geographical spread reflects the growing mainstream appeal of South Asian-themed movies, organisers say, witnessed by the success of films like ``Bhaaji on the Beach'' and ``Bend it Like Beckham.''

Filmi is a slang word in Hindi, that covers anything related to the Indian movie industry.

This year's festival, the fifth, features dramas which tackle the sometimes uneasy mix between South Asian immigrants and host countries, and pushes documentaries on the reconsituted Taliban and the contentious US Patriot Act.

One of the highlights will be ``Cosmopolitan'' a movie by Canadian born director Nisha Ganatra, which stars Roshan Seth, Carol Kane and Madhur Jaffrey.

The movie weaves a tale of romance and comedy as a deserted Indian husband turns to women's magazines and Bollywood movies for hints on how to woo his attractive American neighbor.

Among the most keenly awaited documentaries is a journey into the heartlands of the reconstituting Taliban militia in Pakistan, titled ``Re-Inventing the Taliban.''

Young female director Sharmeen Obaid made the film during a daring journey into North West Pakistan, in an effort to trace the roots of rising Islamic fundamentalism.

Another highlight will be ``Fillum Star: The Peter Patel Story'' Rizwan Manji's debut movie, a 'mockumentary' following a fictional celebrity.

Rajhans said that the new wave of South Asian movies were crossing cultural boundaries and drawing in new audiences as they look at the problems of today's society, rather than concentrating on the woes of the past.

``Thirty-five percent of our audience is not South Asian - we take pride in that fact,'' he said.

Modern South Asian directors have ditched subject matter like arranged marriages and the stereotyped issues of their predecessors he said, making universal films which can break ground for new audiences.

``Now writers and filmmakers are starting to make movies on contemoporary issues,'' he said.

Organisers are hoping to draw 3,500 people to the 10-day event, which takes place just a few weeks before the renowned Canadian International Film Festival.

Connections to the movie world do not end in Toronto, Canada's largest city, with festivals.

Hollywood studios frequently use Toronto as a double for New York, Washington and other huge US cities, and in summer months it becomes a huge outdoor set, with its gleaming glass walled skyscrapers and gritty ethnic communities as a backdrop. - AFP

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