August 11th, 2011

SLANT Film Festival: An Interview with Filmmaker Soham Mehta

Recently we got the opportunity to interview Soham Mehta, filmmaker and participant in this year’s SLANT Film Festival. By “recently” we mean “about an hour ago.” He gave us his thoughts on the Houston arts community, film-making and the festival scene.

Soham got involved with SLANT Film Festival four years ago and this will be his third film to screen. “I’m from Houston and I was looking for opportunities to screen my films here. I wanted to support the Houston arts scene and I think what Melissa Hung has been able to do with the festival,” he told me.

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This is the 11th year that the SLANT Film Festival will grace Houston audiences. Melissa Hung, its founder, is also the editor of Hyphen magazine which focuses on the Asian American culture. The festival has always made its home at Aurora Picture Show, but this will be the first time they’ve coordinated to take over the silver screen of River Oaks Theatre.

“It’s one of those historic places that you always dream about seeing your film,” says Soham of River Oaks Theatre. “Tonight is really special because my parents and my friends will be able to see the screening of my film Fatakra. Tonight is about a hometown screening.”

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Mehta’s is a 19-minute short-film “about an Indian immigrant who told his family it he would bring them over in six months. Because of the economy and other factors it took him three years to bring his family including a young son to live with him in Houston. The film is about their first night reunited.” He has the description down pat due to constant recitation on the film festival circuit. In fact, he skipped a screening in Rhode Island last night just to make sure he could be in town for SLANT.

When I ask Soham why the film is set in Houston, the answer seems all to obvious. “All the writing I do is set in Texas. I’m currently writing a feature film based in Houston. You know, Austin gets a lot of the buzz, but there are so many unique aspects of Houston that are never seen in film.” He grew up in Katy and his love of his hometown is obvious. Even though he now lives in New York City he says he “has one foot there and one foot in Houston.”

Fatakra has been a work in progress for two years. Shooting the film only took twelve days, but it took a year to write and a year to edit it to its current form. “Everyone always concentrates on the shooting,” Soham tells me, clearing things up for ye non-filmmaker, “but it’s the writing and editing that always take the longest.”

This is the only Asian American film festival put on in Houston, which is one of the reasons Mehta wants to support it. He says the community is strong in Houston, but tends to be fractured due to geography. “Cities like San Francisco and NYC have larger Asian American festivals, but I think it’s because of the geographic limitations. In Houston everyone can spread out and a lot of the communities have created holds in the suburbs.” As is the case with most causes, awareness is always most important, he thinks. “But that’s also one of the exciting things about tonight. It won’t just be an Asian American Audience. You have the folks at Aurora Picture Show, the River Oaks Theatre fans and all those people that are just looking to see what’s happening there tonight,” he says genuinely excited. At times it’s hard to keep up with my note-taking. I make sure to apologize for paraphrasing in advance.

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If you miss tonight’s screenings, I wouldn’t count on being able to catch the short films anytime soon. Mehta tells me that he can’t make the film available online until it’s finished with it’s film festival circuit. In fact, he’ll be leaving for New York City right away for another festival. The curators at festivals “don’t want to screen movies you can see somewhere else, but my last film is available on iTunes,” he hints.

With that I try to take his advice and move around my schedule so I won’t have to miss this opportunity. Soham continues to make the case telling me that SLANT will cover a few different dramas, “I think there are two science fiction films, a comedy and mine’s a family drama.”

And, I know what you’re asking yourself: What are Soham Mehta’s “can’t miss” spots in Houston? “It has to be food, right? I can’t leave without getting good Tex-Mex. I’d have to choose Guadalajara. And as far as my favorite spot in Houston, it’s got to be Miller Outdoor.”

Check out Soham Mehta’s website here. You can find the facebook fan page for Fatakra here.

Tickets to SLANT Film Festival are free for Aurora Picture Show members and $10 for non-members.

We have a pair of tickets to giveaway for tonight’s SLANT Film Festival courtesy of Aurora Picture Show. Leave us a comment below to tell us why you deserve such a prize and we’ll pick a winner.

— Paul

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