All the rage is about Star Wars but if it wasn’t for a low budget science-fiction show called Star Trek, who knows if we’d ever see the likes of the Death Star, lightsabers, and Jedi knights.
Back on September 8, 1966, the now iconic words: “Space, the final frontier…” were beamed aboard the airwaves all over North America. A TV show that was supposed to be sold as a “Wagon Train to the Stars” was hardly a Space-Western but more a morality play with the futuristic setting of the 23rd Century as the backdrop. What made the original series such campy fun were no doubt the 60’s themed costumes, the set designs, and the practical yet geeky looking props like the phaser, tricorder, and communicator.
Today, the communicator and tricorder combined have become today’s smartphones. And the genre of science-fiction is stronger than ever with a cable channel dedicated to Sci-Fi. In addition, legions of fans attend conventions aimed at audiences who dress up as their favorite fictional characters or variations of them.
The first Star Trek convention began in New York in January 1972. But Star Trek remains an original which helped inspire the popularity of newer conventions. Nearly 45 years later, the biggest of its kind is San Diego’s Comic Con which brings thousands of fans annually.
December 9-11 marks the 50th Anniversary convention held in the Bay Area. Noted Star Trek cast members included several from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Three of the original series cast were there including Walter Koenig who played Mr. Chekov and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.
Also there was three time guest star Sean Kenney who is best remembered for his near motionless performance as the crippled Captain Pike in the only two-part episode, “The Menagerie.” Kenney also played a helmsman/navigator Lt. DePaul in the show’s first season.
The idea behind the conventions is simple. It’s a gathering place for fans to see their favorite Trek celebrities, while buying memorabilia and wearing costumes. It’s a little absurd to the non-Trekkie but it’s really not much different than sports fans who wear jerseys, caps, and other memorabilia. Society just doesn’t accept it quite the same but it’s definitely much more “hip” to admit you’re a Trekkie and there is now a company that specializes in authentic Trek and Star Wars costume replicas.
The best thing about attending the convention at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame near the SF Airport is the intimacy. The largest yearly gathering is held in Las Vegas but like San Diego’s Comic Con, it’s over crowded so there are barricades everywhere and interaction is limited at best. Here the intimate atmosphere was evident in the fans being able to talk to the actors and for a fee, they could get their autographs and/or their photos taken with them.
I hadn’t attended a convention since the late 1980’s and since it had been nearly thirty years, many of the original cast and guest stars have passed away. Most of the fans are also younger and likely are bigger fans of The Next Generation and the other newer spinoffs. However, the reboot Star Trek films in 2009, 2013, and 2016 have rekindled interest in the franchise and a new show called Star Trek:Discovery is to air in January.
The experience for me was nostalgic. I also got into the spirit of it by wearing an original series replica uniform similar to the one worn by Leonard Nimoy as “Spock.” Sorry to disappoint but I did not wear pointed ears or comb my hair to resemble a Vulcan. I will say, the best experience for me was having a casual conversation with Kenney about his memories of being on the original series. He beamed with pride about his few appearances because once you’ve been on Star Trek, you’re forever remembered fondly by the fans, including myself.
With the recent passing of former astronaut John Glenn, it’s fitting that an entertaining TV show about space exploration continues to have a lasting impact not only on our past but the present and the hope for a bright future.
IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a focus to mentor the next generation
LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — IFFLA celebrated their 20th anniversary with familiar faces, overwhelming excitement and new additions to Southern California’s largest Indian and South Asian focused film festival.
Pan Nalin opened the festival with his film Last Film Show, a love letter to cinema and loosely based on his childhood.
“I think IFFLA over the years, it has been like a home in Hollywood. So I was always able to come here and invite people from the industry to see these movies,” said Nalin. “There are producers who usually don’t go to see Indian cinema. So I feel that it’s really important.”
Director Anurag Kashyap returned to host a MasterClass — a way to give back to the festival and fellow filmmakers.
“It is always good to be back here because for me this is where it all started from. And it’s amazing to see that this festival has grown so much and has been sustaining for so long,” said Kashyap.
New filmmakers were honored to be part of the lineup this year, especially after no in-person IFFLA for the last two years.
Hena Asraf, Director of The Return, shares “it feels a little unreal. It feels great! I think especially to be at a festival in person, after over two years.”
“The community is amazing. The welcome is very warm. It feels just so honoring to be a part of this festival and amongst these filmmakers. I can’t wait to see all the other films,” said The Return Editor Esther Shubinski.
It’s that family feeling that makes IFFLA special and keeps filmmakers, attendees, and staff keep coming back.
Actor and director Ravi Kapoor is “just so grateful for this festival. It has been such a supporter of me. And they’ve helped bring the South Asian diasporic community here in LA together as well. Thank god they’ve lasted 20 years.”
Actor & musician Monica Dogra points out “what’s wonderful about IFFLA [is] it’s super niche, South Asians in LA of all places. [And] it’s small enough so you actually see people anyway.”
Actor Pooja Batra added, “I think they’ve always been eclectic with their mix of selection that they bring around here — smaller budget, smaller sort of productions also need a shout out.”
One of the new additions this year is the Spotlight on South Asia.
Festival founder Christina Marouda added this vertical to present films from different countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. “We’re putting a spotlight on projects we want to support,” said Marouda.
The other major new change this year was a live table read of IFFLA alum Kahlil Maskati’s feature script, Alim Uncle, rather than a closing night film. Fawzia Mirza directed the piece.
These changes reflect IFFLA’s commitment to supporting filmmakers while giving audiences more than a viewing experience. In fact, they are able to be part of the filmmaking process.
Marouda says after 20 years, this is IFFLA’s direction moving forward — a full effort to mentor budding filmmakers, while showcasing new films.
Ravi Kapur and Deepti Dawar contributed to this report.
Garcetti’s ambassadorship to India in limbo￼
WASHINGTON DC (Diya TV) — Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has lifted the “hold” on the Senate confirmation of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been nominated by US President Joe Biden as the country’s next ambassador to India. Initially, Grassley planned to object to the nomination, saying Garcetti failed to properly investigate sexual assault allegations and harassment by a close advisor.
Protesters in Sri Lanka have burned down homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country plunged further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to shoot anyone caught destroying property. Even the former Prime Minister had to be evacuated from his home. Angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948.
Internationally recognized Indian American energy expert Arun Majumdar will head the new Stanford University Doerr School of Sustainability, which aims to tackle urgent climate and sustainability challenges,
Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.
LA Kings host first Indian cultural night
LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The Los Angeles Kings hosted their first Indian Cultural Night at the Crypto.com Arena, a new initiative intended to broaden their appeal to a growing demographic. Many of the guests in attendance and the special invitees on hand talked about what the representation of the evening means to them.
Robin Bawa, the first South Asian NHL Player, said “this is great. This is a good idea that the Kings are doing. The first Indian Cultural Night here in the US, and they did a good job – coming down here to be part of this was also a great honor. You know it is all about spreading the word and getting the Indian community involved in these types of things and bringing them out to games.”
“We are here to grow the game, and this allows other people to understand the game and really get embraced by it,” said Dampy Brar, APNA Hockey Co-Founder. “So there’s a lot of South Asian families and population here. When they have nights like this, more will come, more will get introduced to hockey, educate themselves. So to be part of this night and to be able to do what I did today was special.”
Amrit Gill, host of Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition, concurred. “If you can see it, you can be it, as cliche as it sounds. It is one of the most powerful tools in helping create more inclusion not only in sports, but in society as well. So I am over the moon to be here, but this is just the beginning.”
Indian American TikTok stars Kiran and Nivi sang the National Anthem. Kiran explained that this is their “first time attending a game and performing the national anthem.” Nivi added she was “just so grateful to be part of this.”
Indian American actress Sway Bhatia says representation matters in sports and media. Bhatia portrays a hockey player on Disney’s brand new Mighty Ducks TV show.
“Seeing so many people with faces of color, and to be one of those people, is just so empowering,” said Bhatia. And you know, other people in the stadium are able to see who we are and see what we do. I mean we had two amazing brown people of color sing the national anthem, which was so beautiful.”
Organizers are calling the evening a success after a larger than expected turnout and hope this continues to expand the popularity of the game.
Randip Janda, Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition Host, points out that “this is a moment where not only hockey fans are able to celebrate what’s going on tonight but this is a community coming together and celebrating those common bonds whether you’re Indian, whether South Asian or not. A celebration like this, it shows you something. That the rink, where you go and you might be having a bad day but you’re going to celebrate. Win, lose or draw, it should be a party every single time. I think this helps us understand people around us and our communities and hockey can be a vessel of that.”
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