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Colouring outside of the lines

February 25th, 2009     by Megan Griffith-Greene     Comments

The Colouring Book invite

There’s a terrific event this Thursday at the National Film Board in Toronto: a screening of The Colouring Book: Short Digital Videos by Artists of Colour. This will be the Toronto premiere of the films, which debuted in Vancouver last November.

One of the filmmakers is Indira Dutt, a Vancouver-based writer and student, and an old friend of mine. I was thrilled to catch up with her recently and hear all about the film.

MGG: How did the project get started?

ID: This Colouring Book began as a Vancouver-based youth-driven project that started as a conversation over e-mail. Gabriel Martin wanted to build a community where people of colour could come together to reflect, express, and explore issues of race and experiences that shaped who we are. The writing was all focused around specific questions and themes: we explored our own experiences with sexuality, class, race and media.

MGG: How did you get involved?

ID: I met her through friends, and started going to the workshops. We had mentors work with us in writing sessions, and then we went on a four-day writing retreat to this amazing centre not far from Vancouver. In 2005, we published The Colouring Book, which was an anthology of pieces we’d worked on in the workshops and at the retreat.

MGG: When did the group start making films?

ID: There were two digital story workshops and the first one was in July. We had a project coordinator and worked with talented mentors who helped us during the filmmaking process. We each took one piece of writing that we had created and started to add visuals.

MGG: How was working on the DVD different from your experience on the book?

ID: The pieces in the book are really raw: they are really only roughly edited because we wanted to keep the work fresh. It’s kind of rough and ready: 15 people pouring their experiences out to each other. On the DVD, the stories are more deliberately crafted.

MGG: Tell me about your piece.

ID: My piece is called “Listen” - it’s about my experience being of mixed race. It came out of a piece that I’d done for the book: It’s kind of like a conversation with my younger self, not quite knowing where I fit in. I wrote the original piece really quickly, maybe in five minutes. It just came out of me at one of the workshops. But making the film, gathering the images, I had to work on it really slowly because I was making really deliberate decisions. It was very organic: I use a lot of collage, with a lot of saris and texture and photos of my parents. The process of nailing down imagery to your words was very surprising. It looked really different than I’d imagined it.

MGG: What kind of response did you get at the first screening in Vancouver?

ID: It was great, people responded really well. It gets everyone excited. We had a packed house and had to turn people away. We screened it in a cafe, and there were bands who played, so it was like a big party.

MGG: What are you hoping for at the event on Thursday?

ID: It’s fun to have adults out, but it would be amazing if some younger people came out too. Gabe was only 20 when she got the grant that started all this, and it’s had a way bigger life than she’d imagined. It’s inspiring, and we’d love to see more youth get involved in telling their own stories.

The Colouring Book: Short Digital Videos by Artists of Colour Thursday, February 26 at 7 p.m. NFB Cinema 150 John Street

Admission by donation (all proceeds will go the the Colouring Book Project)

Filmmakers and poets in attendance. Panel discussion to follow, moderated by Vinita Srivastava.

For more information contact:

Tags: arts, event listings, film reel, race and racism

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