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Courtesy of RAY LC and Fabeha Monir.

A film directed by Northeastern faculty member RAY LC, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Art + Design, has been accepted into the NYC Short Documentary Film Festival. The film, entitled SHAMIMA: Memory In My Heart, works to preserve the memory of a girl whose family has very few ways to commemorate or communicate about her. The festival will be held on March 22, 2020 in Midtown, New York City.

SHAMIMA, co-directed by Fabeha Monir, tells the story of Ameena Khatun and her Rohingya family, who are uprooted by the Myanmar military and must build a new life in Balukhali, Bengladesh – amidst daily struggles for provisions and basic human necessities. While trying to rebuild, Ameena holds one member of the family dearest of all: her daughter Shamima who died of starvation on the way from Myanmar. The family has no way to remember her, and Ameena, who cannot draw or speak confidently, has no way of continuing her daughter’s memory outside of the family. The film aims to help preserve this memory that is threatened to be lost.

Professor LC became interested in Rohingya through a Japanese friend who was living in Dhaka, Bangladesh; this person made him aware of the situation in the country through the opinions and news he had collected.

“I became so engrossed reading about their plight and stories that I connected with MIT Media Lab graduate student Anika Ullah, who is a Bangladeshi American whose mother works in a related field in Bangladesh. It is through her that I got in touch with PHALS, the organization that we eventually worked with to empower Rohingya refugees to tell their stories,” explained Professor LC. “Convinced that Western narratives gave a biased view of the actual situation in the ground, I obtained funding from the Davis Peace Foundation to go to Balukhali…

Talking to the local people helped me to put the stories together with the truth, giving the Rohingya their own voice.

The film is part of Professor LC’s project that addresses the Rohingya refugee experience in a unique and immersive way. The multidisciplinary project, entitled Immersive Storytelling of Rohingya Refugee Experience, includes a documentary film, VR experience, and this narrative film, SHAMIMA. He had the opportunity to share this project at last fall’s Ars Electronica, one of the largest media art festivals in the world.

“While everyone has their own view of the situation, I just hope viewers of the film are made aware of the Rohingya so they can do their own research,” said Professor LC. “This group of people is currently under siege for island relocation, which, if you’ve been there like myself, can be understood as humanly impossible, given the landscape, number of people, and current living situations. After watching SHAMIMA, I hope that a few of the viewers will be inspired to visit the Rohingya, do projects that in turn speak their own voices, and also perhaps also get a fuller view by experiencing our VR work as well.”

It is not too late to purchase tickets to the NYC Short Documentary Film Festival; click here to learn more.