Vanaja bags 2 Independent Spirit nominations

MUMBAI: Directed by Indian filmmaker Rajnesh Domalpalli, Vanaja –one of this year’s best reviewed foreign language films has picked up two major Independent Spirit Award nominations, the ceremony of which will take place on 23 February, 2008, one day before the Academy Awards.


Vanaja, an Emerging Pictures theatrical release, has been nominated for Best First Feature (along with entries as Julie Delpy’s Two Days In Paris and Scott Frank’s The Lookout) and Best Cinematography (where director of photography Milton Kam faces competition from Rodrigo Prieto of Lust, Caution and Janusz Kaminski of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly). 


An official selection in 93 film festivals in at least 41 countries and a winner of 20 international film awards, Vanaja is set in rural South India, where social barriers are built stronger than fort walls. The film explores the chasm that divides classes, as a young girl struggles to come of age while pursuing her dreams of becoming a dancer. 


Winner of the Jury Prize for Best First Feature at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, Vanaja has been hailed by major film critics across the country.  The New York Times praised it as “an absolutely timeless film” while highly-regarded film critic Roger Ebert gave it four stars, saying “Vanaja is a beautiful and very special film.”  


The film has played in all major U.S. cities, including New York City (where it played eight weeks), and in Los Angeles and San Francisco (where it played for a month).   The film continues to draw crowds in other cities including Denver where it is now in its third week, and Pittsburgh where it is in its second week.


Just this week, the winner of its essay writing contest Why I Dream of Going To India was announced. The essay from 22-year-old Anne McDonnell of Boston, MA was the unanimous choice from hundreds of entries. Dedicating the essay and the dream trip to her mother, McDonnell wrote poignantly about “her desire that all children have of being able to give their parents even a fraction of what’s been bestowed upon them through the years.” The winner receives a free round-trip for two to India, along with a $1,000 cash prize. Nine semi-finalists were also picked and will each receive a $100 consolation prize.