It's clear that Orange County loves good films. Thanks to nearby Hollywood and the Newport Beach Film Festival, locals know what they like. And with the help of newer organizations like the Irvine-based Silent River Film Festival, the film pool is only getting wider.
In its third year, the SRFF is an international film festival, founded by poet and filmmaker Kalpna Singh-Chitnis, that focuses on the art of cinema and literature. Although held in the middle of Orange County, this film festival garners a significant amount of attention worldwide, having already shown over 160 films from over 30 different countries in its past two years.
Irvine’s festival does not focus merely on independent films, but specifically on films from both the West and the East. Singh-Chitnis was inspired to create this festival after noticing that a majority of films screened at other festivals were not from the eastern part of Europe.
“There is a big gap between cinema from the West and cinema from the East, and this festival aims to bridge it,” she says. "Only about 10 films of major festivals are from the eastern part of the world. India, China and other countries need proper representation too.”
SRFF is a part of Cinema for Causes, a group aiming to spread awareness about social and political issues through cinema, urging for support in addition to awareness. Last year, with the premiere of Tim Gorski’s How I Became an Elephant, the SRFF donated the film’s profits to the Elephant Nature Park organization, a sanctuary in Chiang Mai – located in northern Thailand – that treats rescued elephants and other animals. This year, the SRFF was thinking green. All the profits from the film Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey will be donated to the environmentally-focused Live to Love foundation started by Gyalwang Drukpa.
The film festival has numerous categories, including narrative feature films, short films, documentaries, music videos, animations, teen films, and also recognizes exceptional screenplays and actors/actresses. Some of the films included in the recent October festival were Anita Ho, Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey and Us and Them, among others.
The festival is capturing the attention of independent filmmakers, female filmmakers, student filmmakers, writers, and supporters of art cinema and literature, but Singh-Chitnis is adamant that the festival is for everyone.
“Our doors are open to everyone,” she says. “Human beings are our audience. Anyone with the same concerns as others is invited. We attract people who believe in what they are doing and want to bring the world together.”