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Photo courtesy Nina Sudra

CIFF 2021: Interview with director Nina Sudra

By Rachneet Randhawa, December 27 2021—

As part of Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) we had the chance to meet and greet with local filmmakers from Calgary who are fostering amazing initiatives not only towards the arts and culture scene but also for overlooked or controversial subject matter — from the oil sands, fossil fuels and renewable energy, to BIPOC and the first generation immigrant struggle. 

The Gauntlet sat down with one of these local filmmakers, Nina Sudra, owner and operator of Butterfly Typhoon Pictures Inc. and a recent panelist at the CIFF BIPOC representation in the film industry event to learn more. 

Sudra is a jack of all trades being a writer, producer and director for the last two decades and focuses on creating dialogue about social issues resolving the multicultural experience in Western countries. She utilizes her passion for filmmaking as a powerful tool to build bridges between people of different ages and cultures. She has created such films as Growing Up Among Strangers, Tigers At The Gate, Me Masai and Mr. Clean, and more. She reflects on how she got her start in the film industry which was a difficult transition given the lack of opportunity for BIPOC individuals. 

Being born and raised in Calgary she didn’t see a lot of women who looked like her in mainstream media growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s in south Calgary. Her parents were Gugrati immigrants from Uganda in East Africa and migrated to Calgary at a time where minorities were not the norm and fully accepted. Most times immigrants like her parents were just trying to survive and assimilate much like Sudra herself rather than integrate. 

Being an underrepresented minority and woman of colour she found it difficult to fit in growing up and had to come to terms with self-acceptance. 

“It was really great to just disarm people by just naming the elephant in the room,” says Sudra. “And just being really open about my culture in many ways.” 

Sudra is also affiliated with a film project at the University of Calgary with Dr. Rahat Zaidi in the Department of Linguistics who is a lead on the project. Zaidi does international development work and specializes in ethnic minority voices and English as a second language among other issues like Islamophobia and racial issues. Sudra had met Zaidi while she was working on her last film Growing Up Among Strangers which explores the conflicting collective identities of ethnically diverse youth balancing two cultures. 

This has influenced her niche of filmography to focus on immigrants and refugees reagrding cultural misunderstanding. For example, her current project is a documentary directed towards educators across the country to shed some light on what can really help their students and their families that are coming from different countries who may not speak English. 

She claimed that there’s a cultural divide that first-generation immigrants face and many don’t understand the obstacles and experience of newcomers, so she wanted to create a project that would help support educators including teachers — like understanding why youth would drop out of school. 

This new project will also give an introspective look into different cultural backgrounds and their intimate traditions. For example, they’re interviewing an Ethiopian family and participating in a traditional coffee ceremony showcasing the beautiful ritual.

The film is in collaboration with the University of Calgary and they are hoping to have it complete by December and released in Spring of 2022. This would be a great film targeted at newcomers to Canada, especially international students who are adjusting to life in Canada. There is a crowdfunding campaign you should keep a lookout for, and her latest U of C project titled Bridging the Gap.

Nina Sudra was one of the feature panellists on the BIPOC Representation in the Film and TV Industries at CIFF 2021. Be sure to check out the local filmmaker on their website.

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