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Behind the camera by Nancy Kolsti
Summer 2007   Go back to bios and movie clips >>  


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Arvind Singh biography

Though she was surrounded by Bollywood culture while growing up in Punjab, India, Arvind Singh couldn't see herself working on the flashy musicals that are so popular in her country.

"My parents had their own theater group. My father is a playwright and my mother was an actress, and I was acting when I was 4," she says. "But when I was 8 or 9, I decided I didn't like the film industry. They were fairy tales — not real life."

Singh earned a law degree instead and worked as a constitutional law attorney. In 1992, she made a documentary to bring attention to women's issues. She continued creating films for the next eight years.

Singh says the response to a documentary she produced about the killing of the Sikhs, Oh God! Couldn't You Have Mercy?, caused her to seek political asylum in the United States in 2000.

"My husband is a pilot, and he was in the U.S. already on a training mission. I told him that we couldn't go home. I was too shocked and numb to think about it," she says, adding that she couldn't get their children — then ages 5 years and 10 months — to the United States with them until three years later.

After living in California for several years, Singh and her family moved to Texas to be near her brother. She enrolled in UNT's documentary film program last summer to learn production.

"I acted in several TV shows and directed documentary films in India, but I had never operated a camera myself," she says.

During her first year in the program, she created Jordie, Jordan and Me, about the experience of a 19-year-old in dealing with the issues of his homosexuality. Singh met the teen, who is now a student at Rice University, when he was enrolled in UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science and tutoring her daughter.

"He sees the film as a type of therapy," she says. "I've never done a personal documentary before. Peeping into someone's life is very stressful sometimes. I'm learning that my voice as a filmmaker is very important to bring the story out."

She also created The Weary Veil during a summer workshop taught by Ben Levin, professor of radio, television and film. The film addresses the issues of the wearing of Islamic veils in Western societies, particularly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

This summer, Singh hoped to travel to Nepal to film a documentary on the women there and their role in the communist rebel movement that is rejecting conservative Hindu society.

She is producing her films under the name ACreativePeaceProduction and plans to combine filmmaking with teaching after receiving her M.F.A.



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