The founders of Mustard Seed Film Festival, Natasha Cohen-Carroll and Hariprasad Kowtha, began exploring the idea of setting an independent South Asian film festival here in Philadelphia in early April, 2016. Along with Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, a local cultural anthropology professor, they discussed the possibility of organizing a South Asian film festival in Philadelphia and rapidly a team started to form.
We wanted an evocative and inclusive title for festival that connected with the South Asian subcontinent and the diaspora without favoring one region or religion over another. They come in a variety of colors from yellowish-white to black, and are known for their spicy and textured flavor. Mustard seeds are used by people from Afghanistan to Bhutan to Sri Lanka season dishes and represent the many cultures and peoples that call South Asia home.
South Asia is a diverse region in terms of religious beliefs, with Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, among many. In terms of religion and spirituality, the mustard seed is used almost universally as a symbol of humility.The first known reference to the mustard seed in India dates to a story about the Gautama Buddha from the fifth century B.C, and has also been a symbol in Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
The ubiquity of the mustard seed across South Asian cultures confirmed our choice in naming our film festival.
Mustard Seed is the first South Asian film festival in Philadelphia, and will take place August 19th-20th, 2016.
We’ve noticed a lack of South Asian films (especially socially engaged ones) that are shown in Philadelphia and its surrounding neighborhoods in spite of strong Bangladeshi, Nepali, Indian and Pakistani communities. By bringing this festival to Philadelphia, we hope to increase access to South Asian films, but also highlight alternative visions of South Asia and South Asian cinema, bring together communities of various origins and identities, and promote crosscultural dialogue and exchange. Our aim with this festival is to show socially engaged films that focus on themes specific to the South Asian experience and that are created by a predominantly South Asian crew and production team.