SIFF Cinema Upstairs – Sunday, October 6th – 3:00 PM Free

A Talk with Local Documentarians: Making a Documentary in South Asia

Meet two local documentarians Omar Vandal and Sushma Kallam & learn about their passion behind these documentaries, work-in-progess.  They have in working on their film 10 year and 5 year respectively.  Find out what it takes to make a documentary in South Asia and the nuts and bolts behind it.

It is a FREE program. Suggested donation $5

Abdus Salam, a documentary film in progress by Omar Vandal

The Abdus Salam Documentary Film will tell the story of a schoolboy from a farming area in the Punjab who became the first Muslim scientist and only Pakistani ever to win a Nobel Prize. His ideas provoked some of the grandest experiments and discoveries of the 20th Century, including the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson. Although his story was virtually erased from Pakistan’s history books, Salam never forgot his humble origins. All his life he made efforts on behalf of the world’s poor. He was a champion for scientists from Third World countries, donating all his Nobel Prize proceeds and creating the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. This did not spare him from strife within Islam and even in his homeland, where he was officially a heretic. The story will be told through on-location interviews with colleagues, students and family as well as an impressive collection of rare, never-before-seen archival audio and video footage that has been collected by the producers during 10-years of research and travel.

Producers: Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver met in the US the year Salam passed away (1996) and it was there, outside of Pakistan that they discovered how prominent Salam was on the global stage. Saddened by the absence of Salam’s story in their history books, in 2004 they decided to begin researching and developing the story, collecting archives and filming interviews. Omar received his Ph.D. in Microbial Pathogenesis in New York City and now lives in Seattle, Washington, where he is at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Zakir lives in Karachi, Pakistan, where he produces science/education media projects and is working in the areas of curriculum development and distance learning via TV. He also organizes and hosts Karachi’s Science Café.


Walls and the Tiger, a documentary film in progress by Sushma Kallam


A community of South Indian farmer-villagers oppose a nationwide state-and-corporate economic-development push that, while claiming to raise up all citizens, is seizing farmers’ lands, providing them few promised jobs, and devastating their age-old way of life.

Director: Sushma Kallam is descended from a long line of Indian farmers in villages close to the Krishna river in Andhra Pradesh state. During her childhood she lived for a year in the peaceful village dwelling of her grandparents, and has since returned there frequently. After earning an engineering degree in India she came to the US in 2001 to work. She became an independent IT consultant specializing in supply-chain management – optimizing incoming and outgoing raw materials and manufactured goods and services for international markets. In that world, she learned about the ways in which neoliberal economic development – “globalization” – was disrupting traditional rural life in India. The Walls and the Tiger presents her vision of the conflicting priorities and values that have come into play as India’s development policies – increasing GDP and average incomes (which are virtually meaningless among the large majority of Indians who are subsistence farmer-villagers with little involvement in any cash economy). Her film explores the results of global outsourcing and development policies that in India – as in many other nations – grant priority to fast-track industrialization, personal wealth for a few who are equipped to secure profits by any means, menacing populations and environments, alike.


Afghan Cycles, a documentary film in progress by Sarah Menzies

Synopsis: Afghan Cycles is a short documentary film about the women who dare to ride
on the National Cycling Team in Afghanistan. Using the bicycle to “pedal a
revolution,” these women are breaking gender and cultural barriers by
choosing to ride. From their role at home to their role in the community,
Afghan Cycles shares the intimate story of these driven young women, while
illustrating the progress women have made and sharing the harsh
juxtaposing realities many still face throughout the country.

Sarah Menzies took a leap into the filmmaking world in 2009. Adopting a
life on the road, the career has taken her to Africa, South America,
Norway, remote Alaska, across the South Atlantic Ocean in a sailboat,
throughout the United States, and, most recently,  Afghanistan. Sarah is
the founder and director of LET MEDIA, a production company focused on
character driven stories that allow audiences to connect on a personal