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We Make Film: Filmmaking and Creative Expression by People with Disabilities in Contemporary, Urban India

Ghosh, S. (2021) We Make Film: Filmmaking and Creative Expression by People with Disabilities in Contemporary, Urban India. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00105309


People with disabilities (PwDs) are rarely considered as creative audio-visual storytellers. Opportunities to learn filmmaking and work professionally within production contexts continue to remain elusive to filmmakers with disabilities (FwDs) in urban India. It is vital to understand how current filmmaking contexts are rooted in dominant perspectives and reorient and/or broaden existing aesthetic approaches and practices, in order to make rightful space for disabled and d/Deaf filmmakers within this creative field. This PhD study aims to understand and support the work of filmmakers with sensory and locomotor disabilities in contemporary urban India. It explores diverse ways in which disability and filmmaking interact in urban Indian contexts, focusing particularly on inaccessibility of film and video technology, barriers to film consumption and education, and how filmmakers continue to find ways to articulate their creative vision. In doing so, this research addresses the invisibility of PwDs in filmmaking in urban India, and contributes to limited scholarly research and filmmaking on this issue. The research employs an interdisciplinary film practice methodology to explore key questions, drawing methods from film studies (film analysis), visual ethnography (visual elicitation and creative interviewing) and documentary practice (participatory and reflexive filmmaking). Primary data collection was undertaken via multiple collaborative interview-workshops, where filmmaker-participants with disabilities developed short film scripts based on their experience of disability, creativity and access. These workshops were filmed by the filmmaker-researcher and a crew for a reflexive documentary. Research insights are therefore articulated via two research outcomes, a documentary titled We Make Film (80 mins, HDV) and a written thesis, which explore interconnected issues such as assistive technology, embodied approaches to aesthetic expression, inclusive education and strategies for crossability collaboration. The assumption that a disabled person cannot contribute to filmmaking is based on socio-cultural prejudice and a capitalist framework of individualism and complete independence from one another. While acknowledging the value of advanced technologies to improve accessibility and independence among FwDs, this study proposes a framework to help collaborators across abilities understand each others’ diverse socio-cultural contexts and intersectional lived experiences, and a methodology for building inclusive working practices. The study also demonstrates the ways in which existing aesthetic approaches, filmmaking concepts and educational contexts are rooted in ableism, and proposes ways forward to build welcoming contexts for each creative, with or without disabilities, to contribute in ways only they can. The film and written components are intended as post-PhD advocacy tools that can contribute Global South perspectives to ongoing debates on disability diversity in filmmaking. The call to action is for filmmakers, academics and wider societies to re-evaluate existing practices and aesthetic approaches and make creative film expression accessible for all. Through proposed plans for public engagement and strategic partnerships for policy impact, this study paves the path for future inclusive initiatives for filmmakers with disabilities in India and the Global South.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Knox, S. and Purse, L.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Film, Theatre & Television
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:105309

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