Mumbai movie-makers

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From left, Megan Keaveney and Sibylle Freiermuth

Last year just before graduation, Megan Keaveney and Sibylle Freiermuth were awarded a Davis Projects for Peace prize of $10,000 to work with the Women of India Network (WIN). They planned to make a couple of documentaries that chronicled the stories of women in Mumbai. The films would be viewed in WIN health clinics and would encourage women to take part in classes at the clinic and make use of WIN’s resources.

But when Keaveney and Freiermuth arrived in India, the director of the WIN program told them that he’d had second thoughts. Together, they decided there would be more benefit from a documentary that profiled the WIN program, creating a sort of template for use by other groups with similar goals.

Neither Freiermuth nor Keaveney had any experience as filmmakers before this project, so before they left for India, they contacted Christian Faur, Denison’s Vail director of collaborative technologies, for some lessons and tips.

Faur taught them how to use Final Cut Pro, instructed them on how to light a scene and, most importantly, to always ‘mic’ the set. (No matter how quiet a room might seem to be, there’s always some ambient noise.) Keaveney and Freiermuth absorbed their lessons well, check out the video to see the results of their summer in India.

Their mantra quickly became “be open and flexible.”

The two planned interviews with directors and staff in the WIN program. They also visited many of the clinics to interview women they met there, and an overall theme emerged β€” personal empowerment. As Keaveney and Freiermuth talked to their subjects, time and again they saw women educating themselves and rising above challenges that, without the support of their community, would have been insurmountable.

“Before joining WIN, I didn’t even have the confidence to cross the road,” said Sunita Subhash-Ganagg during one of the interviews. She is now a junior supervisor responsible for four health workers and 31 self-help groups.

The completed documentary exceeded all their expectations. Just before leaving, Freiermuth and Keaveney held a screening for the contributors, who gave the film a resounding “thumbs-up.”

The recent grads also were able to keep their expenses lower then anticipated and donated the remainder of their Davis funds to WIN. The money will finance one of the clinics for a year.

As for what’s next, Keaveney will join the Peace Corps. This March she’ll go to Jamaica, where she’ll spend more than two years working with a HIV prevention program. And Freiermuth will head to China where she will teach English to Chinese students. They’re both keeping international work in their future but are incorporating the lesson they learned in India this summer. “Be open and flexible.”

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