During this year’s shift from May to June, Dr. Richard Matthew attended the World Science Festival in New York, New York. While present, the CUSA Director participated in various festival events, including a feature film screening and discussion entitled, “Valley of Saints: Science in Troubled Waters,” on May 29th at the Museum of the Moving Image.
The event celebrated the film of the same name, which took the World Cinema: Dramatic Audience Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for the writer and director’s meaningful melding of science and storytelling. The feature, “Valley of Saints,” delves into the very real and primarily overlooked situation of Kashmir. This country that makes up the northernmost region of the Indian subcontinent is currently involved in a multigenerational, territorial dispute between neighboring India, Pakistan, and native Kashmir forces. The film’s writer and director, Musa Syeed, felt an unmistakable affinity towards the war-torn land, also known as the “Valley of Saints” or “Heaven on Earth” to some, for the beautiful bodies of water and landscape that inhabit it. However, it was the fading reality of the valley’s former image that truly spoke the message Syeed sought to showcase. In an interview with the website, The Credits, he states “I started thinking about the movie as an allegory, about how the environment is a reflection of society and the human condition that inhabits it.”
Dr. Matthew discussed the film’s message as a Specialist in Environment, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, along with highly relevant knowledge of how its message was presented. Being a hot topic of his center’s Transformational Media Lab, studies from the lab have shown that documentary and other issue-based films are most effective when they utilize the film’s storytelling narrative and other aesthetics to pull-in, emotionally invest, and psychologically engage the viewer. Similarly, the film actively makes use of a multilayered relationship between the characters and the setting itself, which attaches audiences through the familiar feelings they may feel in their own lives. Possibly with further academic collaboration, Syeed’s “Valley of Saints” could be the next proven example of how to direct an film with a cause for action.
This event was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of its Public Understanding of Science and Technology initiative, and was presented in collaboration with the Museum of the Moving Image.