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FOG award breathes new life into film by Indian IT engineer

FOG award breathes new life into film by Indian IT engineer
October 05
05:35 2017

Kishore Tummala on the red carpet during FOG Movie Fest 2017

FREMONT, CA: Kishore Tummala, a New Jersey-based software engineer, made his first film and won the “Best Short Film” award at FOG 2017. Titled “I Can’t Breathe”, the film tells the story of a young African-American man who has recently won a basketball scholarship and has plans to propose to his girlfriend.

During a routine traffic stop while riding in his friend’s car in the passenger seat, a police officer shoots and kills him. His distraught mother seeks forgiveness and reconciliation as a solution, rather than revenge.

On September 22, the film opened at the Laemmle Theater in Pasadena, California. Kishore aims to get the film noticed by members of the Academy of Motion Pictures (they run the Oscars) and entered into competition. This is an excerpt of an India Post email interview with him:

You are an IT engineer by training and experience. What inspired you to get into filmmaking and specifically, this kind of film with a strong message?

Kishore Tummala: Well, I was touched and moved by the police-shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri, which prompted protests and riots, contributing to racial tension. I love films from my childhood and I thought this was a subject that needs to be told objectively to promote a constructive dialogue with a strong positive message.

During that process, I found a man whose son was shot by police in front of his own house with his family watching the incident. What he did with the 1.7 million dollars received through settlement from the lawsuit inspired me to tell this story. He is my inspiration to go to against all odds, resistance, and extreme adverse conditions and complete this film.

Tell us about some of the struggles you faced while making this film.

KT: As this is an extremely sensitive issue and the racial tensions are clipping through the ceiling, no one wanted to be part of this project. We had no locations that we could shoot for critical scenes; lot of shoes dropping on the subject, people giving up their roles at the last minute and the list goes on. We were forced to find a replacement of our lead actor just before going to shoot, same with the production designer. We didn’t get permission to shoot anything outdoor including parks as the police departments and parks commission (in NJ and Philly) are reluctant given the sensitivity of the issue and the complexity of the issue. Every step in this project was a challenge as I had neither been to any film shoot nor film school.

Kishore’s friend, Lakshmi Kolla, receiving the “Best Short Film” award from esteemed actor and FOG Grand Marshal, Manoj Bajpayee

Do you feel that movements such as “Black Lives Matter” are making a difference in the treatment of minorities?

KT: I honestly feel their intent is good but somewhere it’s not helping the ultimate cause they are fighting for. I feel that they need to revisit their strategy and be smart about their approach to gain more support from a wider audience.

This is probably one of the rare films that an Indian immigrant has made, which involves other communities. Are there advantages and disadvantages making it from an outsider perspective?

KT: I don’t know, as I had never been into film making before. Only challenge is to find a good team to execute. But I am happy to pull this off with completely new set of people with whom I had never met or worked before.

Having the desire to make this kind of strong film on inter-racial conflict with a positive note is one thing but completing the project against all odds is another challenge. We got plenty of support once we started the project and announced our commitment towards it. In terms of outsider perspective, we just followed the emotional pain of such incidents and tried not to put any color to it, hence it became easy for us. We let the story breathe into the characters.

You recently bagged the “Best Short Film” award at FOG. How was your experience here?

KT: We had many rejections prior to FOG Film Festival given the sensitive conditions surrounding the issue in America. As much as we made the bold content, it is FOG’s daring attempt to select and screen such a sensitive film, when many festivals shied away from it. Also we were delighted to screen along with another fantastic film of the similar kind with a different take on the issue. Entire cast and crew are thankful to the jury for selecting our film as the Best Film. That means a lot to us and gives us ammo to make more projects of this kind. Thank you FOG!

Lakshmi Iyer
India Post News Service

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