25 Jan 2022
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I’m Zulfiya, and I’m a documentary filmmaker from India. I recently joined the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media at the University of York to start an MSc. in Interactive Media by research. As part of my research, I will be working with the CBA to explore interactive storytelling. I plan to create an online platform that brings together personal stories of heritage, which I hope will support some of CBA’s goals. 

My background has mostly been in documentary filmmaking. I’ve made short films about women bodybuilders in India, immigration in the United States, Native American issues, and refugee resettlement in California, among others. I’ve worked on some media and video projects with a few non-profits, exploring gender, sexuality, rural journalism, disability, education, environment and social design. I did my MFA in Documentary Film and Video from Stanford University in the USA. I also studied audio-visual production and humanities in my earlier years of education.

Some reflection I did over the last year got me thinking about interactive documentary and the potential it could have. One part of my reflection was about the previous work I had done, which all adopted the traditional linear form of storytelling, often telling one story in one style. I started to wonder if a lot more could be shared in a more interesting way, perhaps in a different format? What if instead of just one linear video story, there is a combination of videos, and maybe other media too, like photos and text, all presented in a non-linear way? With these questions, I started getting intrigued about an “interactive” documentary which could potentially offer so much more, and also engage a person in not just sitting back and “viewing” but also actively interacting and experiencing a story world.

So, that was one starting point to this research. The other one is more directly related to living in a pandemic world. Last year, when India went into a second lockdown, I started noticing how as everything went online – social interactions, learning, meetings, dance classes, you name it, I wondered if people are also looking for online experiences of stories – beyond traditional movie watching and more toward interactive and participatory modes? And can this mean more meaningful engagement with a topic? These are some questions I’m interested in exploring.

Working with the CBA to find personal stories of heritage and building an interactive platform to share these stories is a very exciting opportunity for me. I love heritage, and I feel it started to matter to me more during the pandemic. The place I lived in, my neighbourhood and the small details around me gave me a sense of comfort. I started to realize that we often look for heritage in museums or grand locations but actually it’s simply around us. And as a storyteller keen to learn about others people’s experiences, I look forward to understanding and appreciating what matters to us. I’m thrilled to start this new journey, and I hope this will be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved!

Zulfiya Hamzaki