Lady bikers, street dogs and visceral sights and sounds from a city nearly 10,000 miles away are showcased in new documentaries completed by UCF film students while they spent a few weeks in Kolkata, India.
The documentaries will make their UCF debut at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Burnett Honors College as part of International Education Week. Film students in UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media and the iLEAD Institute, a media and management college in Kolkata, produced the films as part of a summer project.
The UCF students were paired with iLEAD students, split into three teams, and tasked with selecting a topic, filming it and delivering a rough cut within three weeks in busy Kolkata – formerly Calcutta – where they faced extreme heat and the beginning of the summer monsoon season. On top of that, the Indian students and UCF students had never met before.
“I feel that you need to immerse students into other cultures, and the best way to immerse is to get them out of the tourist situation.” – Phil Peters, film professor
“I’m very proud of the students’ total commitment to the project,” says Phil Peters, a film professor in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media, who conceived and supervised the project. “I’m a real believer in the internationalization of students. I feel that you need to immerse students into other cultures, and the best way to immerse is to get them out of the tourist situation.”
Peters’ instructions to the students were to explore an idea, keep the idea small, but investigate it deeply.
UCF students Sarah Holland and Ramsey Khawaja produced Lady Bikers of Kolkata with concept development from iLEAD students Jai Prakash Jha and Subham Chatterjee.
During the brainstorming process, Holland asked her Indian teammates about interesting events, groups or movements in Kolkata. When they mentioned motorcyclists, she asked if some were female.
“One of our teammates called up his male biker friends,” Holland says. “And through them, we were able to contact with these female bikers and discover that there are more of them than any of us anticipated. Even our Indian teammates had no idea that there was this movement in their own city.”
She says the experience helped her become more flexible and get out of her comfort zone as well as to get to know the culture on a deeper level than if she had been a tourist just passing through.
“I got to know all of these amazing women … that would never have happened if I had not gone with UCF and Phil Peters.” – Sarah Holland, film student
“Because I went with the intent of making a documentary I got to know all of these amazing women that I would never have met otherwise,” Holland says. “That would never have happened if I had not gone with UCF and Phil Peters.”
The students who created Street Dogs of Kolkata were Carina Viegas, Sam Schiffer, Raj Dey and Susoban Roy. Hannah Mitchell, Alan De Oliveira, Ahuti Sharma and Rono Deep created Kolkata/Calcutta.
The project was sponsored by UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities, the Texts and Technology Ph.D. program, UCF Global, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, UCF India Center, Office of Undergraduate Research, School of Visual Arts and Design, Burnett Honors College, Nicholson School of Communication and Media, and UCF Office of Research.
Also on the trip and working on his own independent research project was David Morton, an instructor in the Department of History and doctoral student in the Texts and Technology program on campus.
He says Kolkata was an especially fitting place to shoot films because of the rich history of cinema in Bengal and Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
“Bengal has one of the oldest continuously operating film industries in all of India,” Morton says. “Before Bollywood became preeminent, Kolkata’s Parallel Cinema movement of the 1950s was a moment when Indian cinema was first projected into the outside world.”