PIFF, unprofessional & disrespectful.

Hello all,

My post today is unfortunately about a negative experience with a South Asian event than about a positive one. Experiences such as these have become all too typical.

I will refrain from painting the entire South Asian Community with a broad brush, as these things happen in all communities, it has just been unfortunate that I have had the same experience multiple times in the same community.

Early in April, I was contacted by, Sandy Grewal, executive team member and Director of Films & Programming of the Punjabi International Film Festival (PIFF).

Ms. Grewal had heard about my latest feature, Footsteps Into Gangland, and was interested in screening it in Toronto. It is always exciting to be recruited by a film festival, after all, that is the way independent filmmakers get noticed. However, knowing the nature of my work, I advised Ms. Grewal that before any promises are made, it would be prudent of her to watch my film. Although she had heard good things about the film, I rather have a person watch the entire film and make a decision based on personal experience. My work has been deemed controversial and I do not want to have unexpected backlash from the festival from a rushed decision on Ms. Grewal’s part.

I provided PIFF with the preview link to Footsteps Into Gangland, also, I provided links to my other films as Ms. Grewal expressed interest. A week or so later, I was contacted by PIFF again. It seems my film was well received, furthermore, they wanted to showcase not only Footsteps Into Gangland, but A Warrior’s Religion (Short), and the Decrepit.

‘Wow’, I said to myself, ‘3 of my films to be screened at the inaugural Punjabi International Film Festival!’ I was excited, but more so, felt honoured as I could showcase my work to a community that my first 2 films were geared to bring awareness to. I would also be given a chance to do a Q&A/Director’s commentary, something I feel is important to do at festivals/screenings as it is an opportunity to address concerns.

Sandy and I began discussing the details of coming out to Toronto, they would provide transportation to and from the venues, my meals and lodging would also be taken care of. When asked about flight, I would be expected to fly myself out. That was a concern. So I addressed it readily, I advised Sandy that I don’t need fancy transportation, and don’t worry about covering meals. Flight and lodging is however what I would require.

Sorry people, I would love to come out to every event, and if this world wasn’t run by money, I wouldn’t have any concerns. But at the end of the day, I have a family to feed, people to take care of, future projects to fund, and smaller events for schools and at-risk youth which I more than usually pay out of my own pocket.

See, my films have licensed music in them, meaning, something that is not my own creative work, is part of my project, and I license to use it in my project. Every time a screening occurs, I have to pay those other artists for letting me use their work.

I explained all this to Sandy, she said that she will discuss with her finance team and get back to me. In the meantime I should submit the films to get them ready for being screened. That was another concern. If I submit my films, without having the details worked out, I am legally obligated to showcase my films at the festival regardless if I am present or not. After addressing this concern, I said I would wait to hear back from her before submitting my films. I also advised her that I would discuss with my manager to see if I could afford to foot the bill on the flight. However I had already surpassed what I could afford to do for free this year, and it was only April!

Sandy advised me that the festival will not be selling tickets for the films, they would be free events, and that they didn’t get a lot of funding from sponsors. All this I can appreciate, it is tough to get a festival going, especially one geared towards a single community instead of the mainstream community. I told her I would speak to my manager and if I do not have any funds, then I would see if I can personally spare some savings to come out there. I said I would email her with the outcome and she said she would get in touch with me within a week.

I emailed her saying that my production company couldn’t afford to send me out there, but personally I would be willing to spare a couple of hundred dollars and help with the flight costs. And if that is still not enough to get me out there, I may still be willing to showcase my films at the festival without being present.

That phone call was my last correspondance with Ms. Grewal. I called her a couple of times – no answer, left a voicemail – no call back, dropped an email as well – no reply. Nothing. As if any dealings with me, any scouting of my films, had all been erased.

The two conversations I had with Sandy were both positive. We seemed to have a fair amount in common, she seemed like a cool person that I would want to get to know. Of course there were some ideologies that we disagreed with one another on, religious ones, but nothing that would account for the disrespect of not being responded to. She seemed to be open-minded and as everyone knows, I am too. I was looking forward to meeting her in person and continuing our worthwhile conversations of how film can bring about meaningful positive change.

So why the disrespect of being ignored? Well I appreciate that Ms. Grewal, and the rest of the PIFF team must have been busy getting the festival in order, but they cannot spare a single moment to respond? Unprofessional. Very unprofessional.

Of course I am disappointed with things not working out with PIFF, and I am also disappointed in not getting at least some type of communication back, but the thing I am most disappointed about is that I told Sandy of my negative experiences with South Asian events and concerns being a part of them, to which she said I would not have anything to worry about. ‘Sigh’, so much for that.

I wish PIFF the best in their future, a future I can personally say I do not want any part in.

PIFF Poster 2012

p.s., So PIFF didn’t get a lot of sponsors, eh? And couldn’t afford to bring me out there? Perhaps the ‘galas’, ‘parties’, and ‘celebrations’ took the majority of the budget. Decide for yourself what the priorities of a festival should be;

PIFF Sponsors & Schedule 2012

PIFF Sponsorship Levels


The Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival New Asia Festival Sikh International Festival Spinning Wheel Festival