Faculty Film Shot in India Makes its World Premiere at Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival

A documentary film about efforts to enhance education for the children of India’s sweeper communities will make its world premiere this month at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.  Lisa Mills, Ph.D., associate professor of Film in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media, wrote and directed Son of a Sweeper. The 30 minute film profiles Vimal Kumar, founder of a non-governmental organization called the Movement for Scavenger Community (MSC).  Kumar is a Dalit, born into the “untouchable” caste, and a self-described “son of a sweeper.” Mills met Kumar in 2018 at a labor studies conference.  In late April of 2019, Mills and two UCF graduate students traveled to India to film Kumar’s work.  The film was completed in early 2020.

Mills and her team traveled in taxis, trains and ferries for three weeks over hundreds of miles to film MSC education centers in Ladwa, Solan, Guwahati and Barrackpore.  The film shows children rushing into the centers every afternoon for academic and social guidance. Mills’ documentary tells the story of how Kumar formed MSC as a gateway to help other Dalits rise above their caste through higher education.  It also shows the challenges Kumar faces, with an epilogue on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Dalit communities.

The film will be published in the online International Journal of Creative Media Research in early 2021, alongside an article Mills wrote about her nonfiction film methodology entitled “Regrounding in place, regrounding in truth: the case study of Son of a Sweeper.”

 “Documentary filmmakers are obsessed with the notion of truth, and whether it can ever truly be achieved through cinematic expression,” said Mills.  “I borrow from Timothy Creswell’s humanistic geography by asserting the space between lens and subject can become a meaningful place that regrounds the realities of subject and filmmaker into what I call a collaborative truth.”

Mills said she is grateful for the support her project received from the India Center, the College of Sciences and the Nicholson School of Communication and Media. To see the film in the virtual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (Nov. 5-22), visit https://watch.eventive.org/fliff2020/play/5f6ef88e447d33010b0a0408 or search for the film inside the virtual festival at https://fliff2020.eventive.org/welcomeSon of a Sweeper is part of a package of five short films listed as “SHORTS:  Heart to Heart.”





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