Festival of Lights: Film Review

Festival of Lights - H 2012

Festival of Lights - H 2012

Universal themes aren't enough to buoy unimaginative drama.

Shundell Prasad's feature debut follows a teen whose family is divided by emigration woes and struggles to hold on to her roots.

A teen whose family is divided by emigration woes struggles to hold on to her roots in Shundell Prasad's Festival of Lights. A novel cultural focus, highlighting Guyanese citizens of Indian ancestry, isn't enough to sustain interest in the lifeless film, which will attract few outside the Indo-Guyanese community.

Melinda Shankar plays Reshma, a high school senior in New York who scorns her mother Meena (Ritu Singh Pande) for leaving her father Vishnu (Jimi Mistry) in Guyana when he was refused a U.S. visa thirteen years ago. Now remarried to an Irish-American businessman (Aidan Quinn), Meena has no idea how to handle the rebellious teen.

Reshma finds refuge in another family of Indo-Guyanese immigrants, whose daughter proves to be a calming influence and whose son abruptly becomes her fiancé. (We see only one tentative kiss between them before this news is delivered.) Meanwhile, she is haunted by the desire to find her father, who evidently has made no contact with her over the years.

The script's haphazard delivery of surprise plot points misses many opportunities to build tension or generate even a mild level of viewer involvement in its characters' lives. Though we witness Hindu celebrations like Diwali (the festival referred to in the film's title), scenes in Guyana provide no context for the country's large Indo-Guyanese population.

Prasad's clumsy sense of blocking and camera placement offers no disguise for amateurish performances. Some members of the supporting cast lend an untrained authenticity to the backdrop, but the background is wasted on a limp, poorly told central story.

Production Company: Durga Enertainment, SP Films International
Cast: Melinda Shankar, Aidan Quinn, Ritu Singh Pande, Jimi Mistry, Roshini Persaud, Stephen Hadeed Jr., Nandanie Dudhnath, Isabella Santos, Kamla Bhagroo
Director-Screenwriter: Shundell Prasad
Producers: Graziano Bruni, Shundell Prasad
Executive producers: Ritu Singh Pande, Eve Pomerance, Eli Navon
Director of photography: Valentina Caniglia
Production designer: Mark Gebel
Music: Ronen Landa
Costume designer: Francyne Granico
Editor: Barry Alexander Brown
No rating, 102 minutes.