Photograph by Steven Higgs
Babita Upadhyay says the Oct. 27 MOSAIC Diversity Film Festival at the MCPL will help raise awareness about diversity issues like disability, aging, race and ethnicity for everyone from adults to children, like her 7-year-old daughter Shay. Upadhyay is helping organize the festival.
When Babita Upadhyay’s 3-year-old daughter returned from a birthday party and observed, “I was the only brown person there,” Upadhyay knew it was time to talk to her about diversity.
“Since then I’ve tried to educate her about many things regarding diversity, so when she goes out to the real world on a daily basis she is fully comfortable and confident in dealing with her surroundings,” she said.
When children embrace diversity, the world opens more doors for them, said Upadhyay. “The way to do this is by raising their awareness and by teaching them compassion.”
With the first annual MOSAIC Film Festival, a free festival presented by Diversity Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL), children and adults alike will have an opportunity to increase their awareness of social justice and diversity issues.
Diversity Theatre, a volunteer, nonprofit social issues company in Bloomington, was founded in 1984 by a group of citizens with disabilities who wanted to act and educate the community.
The company expanded after several years to address a wider range of social issues.
“One of our goals has always been to be a catalyst for change,” said Audrey Heller, artistic director of Diversity Theatre and film coordinator for the event. “We will use the medium of film to focus on a variety of social issues, as Diversity Theatre has done with drama for more than 20 years.”
The MOSAIC festival will feature short films for adults and children that address issues of disability, aging, race and ethnicity in positive but realistic ways, according to a news release.
Short films, such as Amazing Grace, about a black girl who auditions for the role of Peter Pan in the school play in spite of her classmates’ doubts, and Kids Just Wanna Have Fun, about children with disabilities, are but two examples of the topics geared toward children.
Films for adults include Little Things: When Prejudice is Unintentional, an honest discussion between blacks and whites about racial slights; Covered Girls, a look at the lives of Muslim women who wear the burqa; The Cloth Sings to Me, a story about African American quilters; and Why Save a Language? a discussion about the role language plays in preserving a culture.
Brief discussions will follow the films, with moderators Keith McQuirter, a New York-based filmmaker; David Roche, a California-based performer; and Jewel Echelbarger, executive director of the local Area 10 Agency on Aging.
Heller is excited about the event and hopeful about its success.
“We’re very fortunate to have a tremendous number of sponsors,” she said.
Bloomingfoods, the IU Asian Culture Center and the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center are just a few of the sponsors. The festival is also supported by a grant from the Bloomington Community Arts Commission.
Upadhyay, the program and administrative assistant at the IU Asian Culture Center and publicity chairperson for the festival, shares Heller’s feelings.
“Even if we can educate one person through this film festival, we consider that a success,” she said. “Many people are not aware of other cultures and races, as well as issues of disability, so the film festival will be a way for them to gather more knowledge. It will help us understand not only our similarities but also our differences.”
She added, “I think children, including my daughter, will respond positively to these films. Children always find personal connections to the books they read and movies they watch.”
Upadhyay’s daughter, now 7, is an example of the impact this type of education can have on children.
“She doesn’t feel like she is so different than others,” Upadhyay said, adding that working at the Asian Culture Center has given her the opportunity to expose her daughter to many different nationalities, ethnicities and skin colors.
“This kind of exposure to and acceptance of diversity is important for children,” she said. “Even in her drawings of people, she will draw people of different races. Her world has truly expanded.”
Both Upadhyay and Heller want to have a similar effect on others in the Bloomington community through the film festival.
“I hope we have an impact on people’s notions about diversity and change some attitudes,” Heller said.
Alison Hamm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.