Posts Tagged ‘Friends Without Borders’

photo courtesy of Steve Goldsmith (fm lt to rt: Valerio, me, Kalyan, Jyotsana, Rahul, Mira)

On Monday, I gave a talk at Cal State Long Beach’s South Asia day called The Law of Love which traced the journey of Friends Without Borders’ friendship efforts in South Asia between 2005-7. The true message was about practicing the process of placing empathy and love at the center of what you do in the world. Many of the students who attended were doing so for extra credit, and so the energy level in the room wasn’t so high when I started. Of course, one of the methods of practice I shared were smile cards, and some of the ripples that have radiated from this. While it felt great to rouse some enthusiasm around this and see all my smile cards disappear with at least a dozen personal requests on how to get more :-), it was more gratifying to learn that the Indian Student Union of CSULB sent links to Ekatva tickets to their member lists. The best part were these 9 & 10 year old kids of faculty who came up afterwards to ask for my autograph ūüôā I made them give me theirs first, and the sweet notes they wrote are pinned up at my office. Priceless little joys!


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Its not everyday that the curators of a film festival ask a filmmaker to submit his films to their festival, and then send him away with 5 awards, including the top 3 prizes and cash!  Yesterday, however, was one of those unbelievable days.

Here’s the awards from the My Hero Film Festival, held yesterday at USC.

Best of Fest Award for Law of Love

Best of Fest Award for Law of Love

First Place Award for Law of Love @ My Hero Film Festival

First Place Award for Law of Love

Second Place for Itipini Community Project

Second Place for Itipini Community Project

Special Hero Award For Friends Without Borders

Special Hero Award For Friends Without Borders

Special Hero Award for Itipini Community Project

Special Hero Award for Itipini Community Project

You can watch the Law of Love here, and the Itipini Community Project here.

When inspiration is the only currency that powers your work, you come out ahead whether or not anyone recognizes you or contributes financially.¬† And if you keep planting those seeds of inspiration, every so often, one will blossom into a tree that drops a ripe fruit in your lap¬† ūüôā¬† And if every tree has hundreds of fruits and thus thousands of seeds, in enough time you may just witness the birth of a ‘rain forest’ with enough ‘oxygen’ for everyone to inhale inspiration all day!

The feedback from the festival was that I should enter films in bigger festivals, and find a way to complete the feature-length Friends Without Borders documentary spanning 70+ hours of footage and 2 years of shooting.¬† I’ve been reluctant to enter festivals because I’m averse to self-promotion or even talking about myself, but I’m realizing that I may be blocking many people out from being inspired and in turn propagating that inspiration.¬† My reluctance has been facilitated by having no money for festival entry fees in the first place, what to mention the time to complete a feature-length film.¬† But if people want to see that happen, I’ll play my part ūüôā

So in the spirit of allowing more people to participate in propagating the inspiration, I’m launching a new experiment here: Inspiration Investment !

Here’s how it works

If either the Law of Love or Itipini Community Project films move you, you have the opportunity invest in more people becoming inspired by these films by paying the cost of entering them into an upcoming film festival.  You can do so at 4 convenient levels, depending on your financial and ideological comfort with the gift-economy:

Livin’ It & Givin’ It –¬† Inspiring others and giving of yourself is your reward. Karmic ROI: potentially infinite.¬† Financial ROI: minus 100%

Payback is Sweet РGet your money back.  Karmic ROI: 100%.  Financial ROI: 0%

Dow (Tao?) and a Half –¬† Get your money back, plus 15%.¬† Karmic ROI: <100%.¬† Financial ROI: 15%.

Double Your Money –¬† Get your money back, and then get your money back again.¬† Karmic ROI: ?¬† Financial ROI: 100%

Financial prizes at these festivals can be hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.¬† So, if these films win at ANY festival, than EVERYBODY who invested will get the return on investment that they requested.¬† ‘Payback’ will happen on a first-come, first-paid basis.¬† After everyone has received what they need, I will accept the remainder as a fund to continue to survive in the gift-economy by making short films, and even longer ones if the universe facilitates that.¬† And If I win nowhere else, then every investor falls into the Livin’ It & Givin’ It category by default ūüôā

To simplify the process for everyone, I’ve listed some upcoming film festivals along with entry fee and deadlines below.

Upcoming Film Festivals

Upcoming Film Festivals

When contributing to the Inspiration Investment Project, please add a note specifying the 1.) film you’d like to invest in (Law of Love, Itipini, Other), ¬† 2.) festival you would like to see it in (one from the list of festivals above, or other that you specify),¬† 3.) dimension of your investment (from the 4 categories listed above).

Here’s a PayPal button to bring it down to a single click for you.¬† I can’t figure out how to get it to say ‘Invest’ instead of ‘Donate’¬† ūüôā

Also, please add a comment to the blog after you invest in a particular film and festival, so others don’t duplicate and I don’t get rich through your generosity!¬† Remember, only one investor per film per festival!!


UPDATE- 11/24/08

Nipun suggested that ChipIn might be a more fun was to raise the inspiration funds needed.¬† It also lets people invest smaller amounts to reach the target for each festival.¬† So here’s links to pages where you can track progress on the fundraising, in order of deadline.¬† BTW, the deadline listed above is the date that festival organizers need to receive the film by– which means the money needs to be here at least 4-5 days earlier!¬† So hurry up and click on the where you want to invest!

Cleveland International                            Law of Love /    Itipini

FirstGlance Hollywood                             Law of Love /    Itipini

Ashland Independent                               Law of Love /    Itipini

Garden State                                            Law of Love /    Itipini

San Luis Obispo International                  Law of Love /    Itipini

Seattle International                                 Law of Love /    Itipini

Vail                                                          Law of Love /    Itipini

Santa Barbara International                      Law of Love /    Itipini

AFI Dallas                                                Law of Love /    Itipini

Los Angeles                                             Law of Love /    Itipini

Nashville                                                 Law of Love /    Itipini

Beverly Hills                                            Law of Love /    Itipini

Gen Arts                                                  Law of Love /    Itipini

Palm Beach International                         Law of Love /    Itipini

Aspen Shorts                                           Law of Love /    Itipini

International Family                                Law of Love /    Itipini

Newport Beach                                        Law of Love /    Itipini

London Independent                               Law of Love /    Itipini


UPDATE – 11/25/08

More than enough money has been raised!

I’ve been awed and humbled by the generosity that’s flowed in.¬† Multiple people have told me that they want to fund every single festival, and where possible, I’ve stopped them so that others have an opportunity to be a small part of the inspiration.¬† One friend was just hospitalized from a fire in her kitchen with 2nd & 3rd degree burns, and she sends in a donation and offers to compose a score for a future film!¬† Another friend in India lives on $200 a month, and donates $65 of that to inspiring people on the other side of the globe!!¬† Yet another friend made films in Seattle, and not only funds both for the Seattle Film Festival, but offers to forward to all her film-investor friends in the city!!!¬† Another friend steps in and sends over $800 as a gift to his wife, joking that this is the true ‘Law of Love’!!!¬† What’s more astounding is that everyone simply wants the ‘Inspiration Capital’ returns instead of the financial returns, and most are bypassing the ChipIn system to remain anonymous to the world in the process.¬† Truly amazing.

I feel like I’ve already ‘won’ so many times over with this process– the conceptualizing, shooting, writing, and editing were all gifts before the first person saw any of the work, and then the hundreds of people who have been moved have made it even sweeter.¬† With this kind of energy behind these films, I feel like we’re going to touch a lot of people out there!

Thank you all for Investing in Inspiration!

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My cousin Mrugesh was married in Dhrol, and through the days of pre-wedding preparations and celebrations I was able to tell my family about the team’s plans to go to Pakistan, and my plans to accompany as the filmmaker for Friends Without Borders. Sometime in October, my father reacted to the same news by getting extremely upset and agitated. He told me that he would not be able to sleep a single night that I was in Pakistan for fear that I would not return alive. Moreover, if I did pass through the experience unscathed, he said that he would have an equal measure of worry for fear that I would then consider Pakistan a safe and friendly country and would make repeated visits to the Islamic republic. Months ago, I had no choice but to tell my father that my plans to go to Pakistan were still under consideration, and that nothing was certain. Any other response would have resulted in endless lectures on the subject, most without much basis besides irrational fear and religious hatred.

However, the response I got from the Indian side of my family was markedly different than that of family in the United States. No fear, no worries, only one single-line lecture [“If you are not careful, they will convert you to Islam”]. Sometimes a few raised eyebrows. More often then not, many advised me to use the opportunity to go to a town in Baluchistan (a southwestern province in Pakistan) to visit the temple of Hinglaj Mata, the mother goddess of my caste. Interestingly, nobody could tell me exactly what the name of the town was, but said that it was some 80 miles west of Karachi, and that everyone in the area would know how to find the temple of Hinglaj Mata. The story of how Hinglaj Mata became the goddess of our caste is an interesting one, and has its origins in the dim antiquity of Indian lore.

Though I don’t subscribe to caste identification, much of my extended family very strongly clings to their caste moorings. They are brahmkshatriyas, the descendants of the last surviving ‘original’ kshatriyas (warrior-rulers) from ancient India. According the to legend, there was a sage name Parsuram who one day was deeply wronged by a kshatriya. Reflecting rather vengefully upon the experience, he concluded that all kshatriyas had grown egotistical, corrupt, drunk with power, or otherwise evil and went on a personal campaign of genocide to annihilate every last kshatriya from the face of the planet. If I recall correctly, his bloodlust lasted for 21 generations as he hunted down and personally executed warriors with his fearsome axe. There came a time when only 12 kshatriya boys remained alive, and its at this point that there are a few conflicting accounts of the story. According to one variation, those boys were sheltered by some brahmins (priests) in their ashram. Parsuram came to learn that a few boys remained alive, and arrived at the ashram to slaughter them. The brahmins declared that these boys were brahmin boys, but Parsuram did not believe this. As a test, he told the brahmins to eat with these boys, as the prevailing custom at the time was that brahmins would not eat with any lower caste. The brahmins ate a meal with the boys to alleviate Parsuram’s suspicions and to save the kshatriya boys under their protection. Thereafter, these boys were raised as brahmins, inter-married within the brahmin community, but secretly retained their identity as kshatriyas and passed on that tradition to their offspring. The other variation on this story, the one I’ve heard a few times in my extended family, is that Hinglaj was the name of the brahmin who protected those kshatriya boys (or perhaps Hinglaj was the name of his wife), and has since then become the goddess of the caste. Yet another variation of the story is that the boys were hidden in a cave somewhere in the area around the site of the present Hinglaj Mata temple, and various family members would also like me to go visit and photograph that cave.

Though the actual history may perhaps never be known, there are a few tidbits of the past that have made it into the present. Some time last year, I was able to locate a list of brahmkshatriya last names as they have evolved and branched out from the original 12 last names. To my knowledge, the translation I made is the only existing English translation of that piece of history [I may post it here in case anyone is interested in the details]. Another interesting tidbit is that there seems to be three distinct branches of the brahmkshatriya line: a Punjabi one, a Gujarati one, and a Muslim-convert one. Both the Punjabi line and the Muslim line retain the last names of the caste, and are aware that they are kshatriyas, but apparently don’t know the history of their origins, and don’t maintain any caste connectivity either within themselves, or with the larger brahmkshatriya community. Only the Gujarati line strongly clings to this legacy and lore, and maintains a high-degree of community identity, even publishing and distributing its own news and matrimonial magazine in many parts of the world where the diaspora is concentrated.

Of course, as an added dramatic element to the legend, the sage Parsuram is considered to be the 6th incarnation of Vishnu. Parsuram is not worshipped, especially by my caste [ ūüôā ], and his only apparent contribution to humanity was the genocide of my ancestors. Through all the caste pride and better-than-thou-ism I see in the brahmkshatriya community, nobody ever seems to conceptualize themselves as the descendants of a clan so corrupted that divinity itself had to incarnate to annihilate them!

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