Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

"Our Family" Documentary Screening & Discussion

Directed by KP Jayasankar and Anjali Monteiro (Mumbai, India)
2007 film, 56 minutes, Tamil with English subtitles
"Our Family" Documentary Screening & Discussion
Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 17:00
Annenberg School for Communication, Room 109 University of Pennsylvania 3620 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19104


What does it mean to cross that line which sharply divides us on the basis of gender? To free oneself of the socially constructed onus of being male? Is there life beyond a hetero-normative family? Set in Tamilnadu, India, Our Family brings together excerpts from Nirvanam, a one person performance, by Pritham K. Chakravarthy and a family of three generations of trans-gendered female subjects. Aasha, Seetha and Dhana, who are bound together by ties of adoption, belong to the community called Aravanis (aka Hijras, in some parts of India). The film juxtaposes the "normality" of their existence with the dark and powerful narrative by Pritham- "Nirvanam"; Nirvanam (Liberation) refers to the act of liberating oneself from the male body and transforming oneself to a female. This narrative bears witness to the tumultuous journey towards a reinvented selfhood, a journey fraught with violence, exploitation, affection and courage.

About the directors:

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar are Professors at the  Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Monteiro has a Masters degree in Economics and a Ph.D. in Sociology. Jayasankar has an M.A. in German language and a Ph.D. in Humanities and Social Sciences. Both of them are involved in media production, teaching and research. A presiding thematic of much of their work has been a problematising of notions of self and the other, of normality and deviance, of the local and the global, through the exploration of diverse narratives and rituals. These range from the stories and paintings of indigenous peoples to the poetry of prison inmates. Jointly they have won twenty one national and international awards for their films. They have several papers in the area of media and cultural studies and have contributed to scholarly journals such as Cultural Studies. They are both recipients of the Howard Thomas Memorial Fellowship in Media Studies, and have been attached to Goldsmith’s College, London and the University of Western Sydney. Monteiro has been awarded a Fulbright visiting lecturer fellowship for 2006-07 at the University of California, Berkeley. They also serve as visiting faculty to several leading media and design institutions in India and abroad. They are both actively involved in "Vikalp" and "Films for Freedom," which are collectives of documentary filmmakers campaigning for freedom of expression.

Post screening Q & A will be moderated by New York-based film and media curator and arts producer, L. Somi Roy.

5:00 to 6:30pm

Co-sponsored by the Center for Global Communication Studies and CASI.

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