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by Editorial Desk September 3 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 59 secs

The curtains rose on the highly anticipated 7th Annual Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati on the 22nd August 2023, captivating attendees with an unforgettable inauguration, reports #Newsdesk.

The event was graced by the esteemed presence of Cincinnati's Mayor, who, along with the celebrated Grand Slam doubles champion, Rohan Bopanna, added an aura of prestige as they bestowed awards upon the deserving victors of the Annual Film festival. The atmosphere inside the venue was electric, with the palpable buzz of excitement reverberating through every corner. As the director and lead actor of the featured film “Call me Dancer” by Leslie Shampaine took centerstage for an engaging Q&A session, the audience's enthusiasm reached new heights.

The event unfolded at the Cincinnati Art Museum, a fitting backdrop that lent an air of elegance and culture to the occasion. The venue was abuzz with attendees, nearly every seat occupied, a testament to the festival's immense popularity and the indomitable spirit of cinema enthusiasts.

Cincinnati's culinary legacy took centerstage at an exclusive film premiere after-party. Following the captivating film screening and discussion, attendees at the Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati were treated to a sophisticated culinary experience at the renowned Le Bar à Boeuf. Against the backdrop of the Queen City’s skyscape, guests embraced the opportunity to deepen their connection with Cincinnati and indulge in the rich culinary heritage of maestro, Jean Robert de Cavel.

As the festival continued its cinematic journey, attendees took in more captivating screenings, insightful discussions, and memorable interactions with the creative minds behind the showcased films. The festival kept its promise to be a celebration of art, culture, and the magic of storytelling. “We were overwhelmed by the strong show of support not only at the opening night but at each of the screenings,” said the Executive Director of the festival, Dr Ratee Apana. She added to that by saying that ‘IFFCincy 2023 was a captivating expedition, dwelling into the intricate tapestry of shared human experiences that united not only Cincinnati's diverse global community but also its vibrant Indian immigrant community.’

The closing ceremony was held at the Mariemont Theatre, in the Cincinnati Art Museum. The Best Film Award was bagged by N. Padmakumar's Max, Min and Meowzaki. Pip Gilmour and Leslie Shampaine's Call Me Dancer won the Best Director Award. Shefali Shah’s performance in Three of Us won her the Best Actress Award.

Footprints on Water won awards across all three separate jury panels. Two of Adil Hussain’s films were in the nominated list. Of these, one of the films, N. Padmakumar's Max, Min and Meowzaki won the Grand Jury award for the Best Film, and Aadil himself won a Grand Jury Award, for his performance in Nathalia Syam’s Footprints on Water.

In addition to the Cincinnati grand jury awards, Film Critics Circle of India (FCCI) and House of Illusions set up independent jury panels and instituted awards. FCCI is an organization of film critics, film historians, film book authors, et. al., from India. FCCI president Amit Khanna says, “It’s great that FCCI is setting up juries at important film festivals around the world.” The FCCI jury, which comprised Deepa Gahlot, Johnson Thomas, and Utpal Datta, conferred a Special Mention for Best Debut Feature Film upon Nathalia Syam’s Footprints on Water for using a range of cinematic techniques to expose the protagonist’s inner turmoil and suffering.

Advisory board member Christopher Dalton said, “The history of so-called civilization is the history of senseless violence and injustice. Alongside, it is also the history of sensible artists who refuse to be quiet. Therefore, film festivals serve as an important platform for voices to be heard; voices that in many cases echo forcefully enough to compel society to make corrections.” House of Illusions is an indie film studio founded by Dalton primarily to discover obscure talent and to encourage the creation of good cinema.

The House of Illusions Award for Best Film by a Woman Director was conferred upon Footprints on Water. To Kill a Tiger received a House of Illusions Special Mention nod for a Film by a Woman Director. And Zoya Hussain received a House of Illusions Special Mention nod for Best Actress for her lead role in the short film, Bad Egg. The three-member House of Illusions jury comprised Ratan Sil Sarma, Ratnottama Sengupta, and Vijay Sharma.

Ratan Sil Sarma stated, “Footprints on Water will make noise. It is a poignant cinematic experience that explores the harsh realities of illegal immigrants. To Kill a Tiger is a poignant reminder of the enduring injustices in our world. It takes the viewer on a haunting journey that exposes the deep-rooted issues within society, the legal system, and the prevailing mindsets that hinders the pursuit of justice. Zoya in Bad Egg displays versatility. Doing a double role, she conveys the distinct personalities of both characters even in scenes sans dialogue. Her expressive eyes add depth to the intense moments.”

Ratnottama Sengupta lauded Footprints on Water for tackling subjects that are of great concern to the entire world, and To Kill a Tiger for taking a stand against patriarchy. Vijay Sharma praised Zoya Hussain for her controlled acting in Bad Egg, in which she vividly communicates the feelings of the two characters she plays with minimum dialogue and lots of silence.

The list of awards:

Best Film Award – N. Padmakumar's Max, Min and Meowzaki

Best Director Award – Pip Gilmour & Leslie Shampaine's Call Me Dancer

Best Actress Award – Shefali Shah (Three of Us)

Best Actor Award – Adil Hussain (Footprints on Water)

Best Short Documentary Award – Kanniks Kannikeswaran’s Colonial Interlude

Best Director of a Short Documentary Award – Anand Kamalakar’s Colonel Kalsi

Best Short Film Drama Award – Mayank Deogaonkar's Butterscotch

Best Short Comedy Film Award – Lulu Valencia's Shenanigans

House of Illusions Award for Best Film by a Woman Director – Nathalia Syam’s Footprints on Water

House of Illusions Special Mention for a Film by a Woman Director – Nisha Pahuja’s film To Kill a Tiger

House of Illusions Special Mention for Best Actress – Zoya Hussain (Bad Egg)

FCCI Special Mention for Best Debut Director – Nathalia Syam’s Footprints on Water

About the Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati

The Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati is an annual event that celebrates the rich and diverse cinematic heritage of the Indian diaspora and lifts the human spirit. Through thought-provoking films, engaging discussions, and cultural interactions, the festival aims to foster a deeper appreciation for Indian cinema and its global impact. The festival provides a platform for both established and emerging filmmakers to showcase their work to an enthusiastic audience. For more information, visit

By supporting the Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati, attendees played an active role in empowering the next generation of leaders. The festival supports education and empowerment beyond the silver screen. Net proceeds from ticket sales provide scholarships for Cincinnati Public High School students in need to participate in the Cincinnati Sister Cities Youth Ambassador Program (India).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.