The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS), USA has offered membership to more than 800 film professionals across 68 countries in order to give itself a wider and more diverse representation in terms of gender, race and ethnicity. The Academy is known around the world for its annual Academy Awards, now officially and popularly known as “The Oscars”.
The new invitees, which include a number of Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities, also include a number of Indian film professionals. Proudly for Jamia Millia Islmia, included in the list are documentary filmmakers Nishtha Jain, Shirley Abraham and Amit Mahadesiya all three of whom are post graduates of the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre (AJKMCRC).
Nishtha Jain completed her post graduation at the AJK MCRC and went onto specialize in Film Direction at the FTII, Pune. Her filmography includes City of Photos (2004), Lakshmi and Me (2007), At my Doorstep (2009), Family Album (2011) and Gulabi Gang (2012) which won the National Award for the Best film on Social Issues in 2014. She has won 25 international and national film awards and has been the recipient of several prestigious fellowships that include the Global Media maker Award (2019) and the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Fellowship to teach and research at the University of Texas (Austin) during 2019.
Jain was among six outstanding women documentary filmmakers to receive the Chicken and Egg award 2020 for her film The Golden Thread on the crisis in the jute textile industry. She has just completed her first fiction feature titled Proof (2019).
Jain’s films are the subject of study by documentary film scholars and many of her films like The City of Photos, Family Album and Gulabi Gang are key texts at the MCRC for the study of still and moving images.
Shirley Abraham and Amit Mahadesiya graduated from the AJK MCRC in 2006 and collaborated on a series of internationally acclaimed projects. Their debut feature-length documentary Cinema Travelers premiered as an official selection at Cannes Film festival and received a standing ovation. The film has achieved the rare festival trifecta of Cannes, Toronto and New York Film Festival and has won 19 awards including the Presidents Gold Medal in India.
Amit Mahedesiya is also a much-acclaimed photographer whose series of 12 photographs titled `Night Screening of Traveling Cinema in India’ received the World Press Photo Award in 2011.
Their documentary Searching for Saraswati (2018) about two villages in the grip of blind faith was commissioned by New York Times Op-Docs. In 2019, Abraham and Mahadesiya made the short and powerful documentary titled The Hour of the Lynching about a case of Muslims being lynched by cow vigilantes. The film can be streamed on The Guardian news website.
Abraham and Mahadesiya have won numerous prestigious awards and their work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, The Pulitzer Centre, New York Times, MacArthur Foundation, IDFA, BBC among others.
In 2017, Abraham and Mahadesiya were felicitated by the AJKMCRC as distinguished alumni who had contributed significantly to the Documentary Arts.
After receiving the invite, which would allow her along with the rest of the class of 2020 to vote across categories in the Academy Awards or `Oscars’, Shirley Abraham tweeted: “As an independent filmmaker, I know the value of legitimacy of my voice; of a place at the table. Honored to be invited by @Academy to join as a member…A world of work ahead of us and I am so ready.”