AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 11:  Dev Patel and Roberta Armani attend the third edition of Films of City Frames presented by Giorgio Armani at South by Southwest on March 11, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images for Giorgio Armani)

On Saturday night, the fashion set escaped the rain-soaked streets of Austin, TX inside a black tented, champagne-filled Armani-sponsored soiree at the South by Southwest Festival 2017. The occasion: a celebration of the designer’s “Films of City Frames” short film initiative, which launched at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014. The night, hosted by Roberta Armani and Dev Patel, kicked off with a private screening of five shorts from students at film schools around the world.

Patel served as a mentor to the emerging filmmakers who were tasked with creating short films with this heady directive: Create a narrative where the Frames of Life eyewear is “the main instrument through which the protagonists observe reality, capture emotions and experience new adventures, demonstrating how our points of view connect all of humanity, in spite of geographical distance and diverse backgrounds.”

Patel dubbed the night “an anthem of diversity,” thanks to the global perspective of the participants. “Look, I always thought it was important. It’s just now diverse voices are actually being heard. That’s what’s happening. Art is about building bridges. It dissolves barriers,” said the London-bred actor of Indian descent. “I want to watch films that reflect my reality, and people around the world feel the same as I do from all corners of the earth, so this is fantastic,” he added.

Giorgio Armani expressed similar sentiments: “Cinema, just like fashion, is a wonderful medium, because it keeps endlessly renewing itself thanks to the contribution of young talents who bring their unique point of view. I am proud of my Films of City Frames initiative: we have reached edition number three, we are in Austin at South by Southwest, which represents the cutting edge of visual creativity, and we are presenting stories that are emotionally strong as they are engaging. This edition also expresses a message of true multiculturalism, which I think today is particularly important.”

While the recent Oscar nominee served as an advisor to the students, he described their “symbiotic” mentor-student relationship. “You know sometimes you can get cynical, you’re bogged down with all these things, these kind of logistics and all these decisions, and you see innocent filmmakers full of hope coming in and showing their work. It inspires me again and makes me want to go out and make more films,” explained the actor, who is executive producing and starring in the upcoming thriller, “Hotel Mumbai,” based on the 2008 terror attacks.

During a post-screening panel discussion moderated by fashion critic and curator Angelo Flaccavento, Patel advised aspiring artists to “remain curious and open,” citing two actresses who put these principles into practice: Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, his costars in the “Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

But Patel’s trip to Austin has not been all work. The South by Southwest – and Austin – newbie, who topped his all-grey Giorgio Armani ensemble with a rose-colored blazer, made time to indulge in a Texan staple: “We’ve had some good Texas barbecue during the day. It’s a wonderful city, the energy is great, so I’ll come back for sure!”

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