A story in film

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After a successful stint at documentary filmmaking in America, a second generation Kashmiri American, Musa Syeed, returns to his homeland to document the woes of a lake in distress. Ibrahim Wani reports.

An alumnus of New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of Arts and the Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies Department, Musa Syeed is a man of many talents.
In addition to being an award winning filmmaker, the 25 year old is a writer and a teacher.
A second generation Kashmiri American, his father moved out from Kashmir in 1970’s. Hailing from Sopore, the family is now settled in Indiana.
Musa produced his first film “A SONS SACRIFICE” at the young age of 23. The film dealt with a Bangladeshi immigrant family in New York and won the award for the best Documentary Film at Tribeca Film Festival. Afterwards, Musa went on to produce and direct a film “Bronx Princess”. The film which dealt with immigration won the Best Documentary Award at the 2009 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.
Syeed as a Fulbright Fellow also worked in Cairo, Egypt on experimental filmmaking. As a writer, he produced original theatrical work for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. He also works as the film editor Islamica Magazine.
This year Musa won the prestigious Sloan P Foundation award to make a film on Dal Lake.
The film titled ‘Providence’ tells the story of a poor Kashmiri boat driver and an American scientist who work to uncover the sources of pollution in Kashmir’s main lake.
Researching this film, Musa has been to Kashmir twice and has met a lot of people. He says, “Everyone in Kashmir has a different stake in the lake and it seems a point of identity for everyone”.
Musa feels that the film will raise awareness about the problem. “The film will raise awareness about environmental issues in Kashmir and also generate support from global audiences”.
The film primarily deals with new scientific ways to preserve the lake and the communities inhabiting the Dal. “As well it is about the consequences the film is also about the balance between man and nature”.
Emphasising that the issue of environmental preservation is a thing that people from all, he says, “People from all political beliefs can unite on this issue and rise above politics.”
Syeed has also worked as an educator in schools and community centers. He is a professor of documentary production at Williams College. In addition, he serves as an advisor for film and television companies, including Thirteen/WNET.
Musa feels that film making is an important profession. “Film making is essentially story telling”. Recognizing film making as a language of cultural expression, he says “Today films have emerged as important depictions of social traditions and history.” Musa feels that good film making can be a tool of cultural expression and preservation.
With particular reference to Kashmir, he says that film making can be used as a tool of intellectual expression and to uphold identity.
His documentary films have been regularly showcased on PBS, the public broadcasting service in America, which is a government free to air channel and has a wide reach.
For a person born in America, Musa is greatly sensitive to the problems of fringe communities in societies world over and he portrays this through his films. “If you have an original story to tell, that’s the biggest commodity”.
His films have gone a long way in bringing forth unknown stories to common viewers in America and have increased awareness to different cultures.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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