SXSW Film: The State of Diversity in Independent Films is As Expected

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Sahil and Jai finally find a quiet moment at the end of their hike in the Western Ghats | Credit: Oankar Chavan

By John Laird

Heading into a panel titled “The State of Diversity in Independent Film”, I definitely wondered why it was even a thing. After all, if diversity exists anywhere in regards to “Hollywood”, it’s definitely through independent channels.

Well, sure enough, that turned out to be exactly right. The panel, which was moderated by Kimberly Jones (Screens/Book editor, Austin Chronicle) and featured directors Matthew Cherry, Logan Kibens and Sudhanshu Saria, was essentially rendered pointless near the beginning when all three speakers admitted that being “different” was something that they cherished.

Kibens, whose film “Operator” is showing at SXSW, did note that there is some trickery that comes into play when asking for money, “People want to see themselves reflected in you.”

Overall though, the diverse panel’s tone was positive in regards to their sexual preferences and race and how they affect their positions as filmmakers. Saria (he has a film, “Loev”, showing at the festival) mentioned that “me being me is the greatest asset I have” and that “the fact that I’m different is a gift.”

For a moment it seemed as though the panel would shift to “How Being a Minority or Gay Will Help Get Your Film Made” but things took a turn from that when Cherry (his film “9 Rides” is screening at the festival) emphasized that when it comes to getting something made, it’s really about what that particular person has done for themselves – “People want to help people who are helping themselves.” Saria also added to this with a swift “You’ve only got you.”

Clearly, the state of diversity in independent film is that it’s diverse and humming along just fine.


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