Mustard Seed Film Festival: Interview with Co-Founder Natasha Cohen-Carroll ’13

Mustard Seed Film Festival: Interview with Co-Founder Natasha Cohen-Carroll ’13

Natasha Cohen-Carroll is a 2013 Haverford alumna who has cofounded Mustard Seed, a Philadelphia film festival centered on South Asian film and art. The festival, on August 19-20th, will include films, food, discussion, live music, and dance performances, and is “screening films directed by South Asian filmmakers, produced by South Asian production teams, and centered on themes salient to the South Asian citizen, immigrant and diasporic experience.” HCAH spoke to Ms. Carroll to find out more about her motivations and inspirations in creating this festival. 1. You mention on your website that there is a distinct lack of South Asian films, particularly socially-engaged films, being shown in Philly, and that through Mustard Seed you want to highlight “alternative visions of South Asia and South Asian cinema.” Was there a particular moment or set of experiences that really solidified a drive to create these dialogues around South Asian film? The first moment when Mustard Seed became an inkling of an idea was when co-creator/ co-director Hariprasad Kowtha and I were at a race, media and social justice symposium— held by CAMRA at UPenn— with Gabriel Dattatreyan (who taught anthropology at Haverford last year, funnily enough).  After a screening of an Indian documentary, Hariprasad mentioned how wonderful it would be to have a South Asian film festival in Philly, and we all three began joking about doing it ourselves. Three weeks later though, it was still on our minds, and even if it was already the end of May, we decided to go for it, and by the beginning of June we already had three films confirmed.  2. Looking at your...
A global approach to documentary cinema

A global approach to documentary cinema

The bulk of my work as a research assistant for the Hurford Center’s artist-in-residence, Vicky Funari, is to help her build a portfolio of documentaries from various regions around the world. This is part of an ongoing process for Professor Funari, who hopes to pitch a new class to hopefully begin teaching by the spring of 2018. The focus of the class revolves around the similarities and differences of national cinemas in respect to documentaries. The repository of films and associated readings that I’ve created during the summer is meant to inform Professor’s Funari as to the structure and syllabus of this proposed class. Since the distribution of films has only become more widespread throughout its history, the ideas behind certain cinematic techniques are carried far beyond the national cinema where it is released, prompting filmmakers to adapt and appropriate such techniques when necessary. In addition, film movements that focus primarily on fiction films, such as the French New Wave, can still have immense and noticeable influences on the style and technique of their documentary counterparts. Often times, documentaries can point towards critical aspects of local culture and identity, but beyond that can also inform audiences of the power of globalization, and the dynamic nature of the film medium in general. Springboarding of the heavy connections one can find between films from vastly different regions, I initially made the suggestion that Professor Funari structure the class around thematic similarities between films. I felt it would be more compelling to look into the relationship between films rather than focus on segregating films by geographic origin and contain them within literal...