With just one class, Shehtaz Huq ’14 (Garland, Texas) was hooked.
“I think taking Film and Media Studies 101 was the best stroke of luck that I had my freshman year, because that was the class that started my love affair with film,” says Huq, now a double major in English and film and media studies.
She followed that class up with another taught by Nandini Sikand, assistant professor of film and media studies, and is now spending her summer working alongside Sikand as an EXCEL Scholar. An award-winning independent filmmaker and television producer, Sikand joined the faculty last fall as the College’s first professor in the new film and media studies program.
Huq is assisting Sikand with making the film “Cranes of Hope,” which tells the story of David Heard and The National Crane Project. Heard, a 10-year-old Easton boy who died from a rare cancer called neurobalstoma, began the crane project in an effort to install 1,000 origami cranes in every pediatric cancer center in the country.
“Cranes of Hope” is a collaborative effort with Mary Jo Lodge, assistant professor of English, and Andy Smith, associate professor of English and chair of film and media studies. They will screen the film on campus Sept. 7.
Once the film is completed, David’s mother, Susan and Tom Heard ’91, will use it as a fundraising and awareness tool.
Huq has gained valuable practical experience by working on the film project.
“Although Shehtaz is interested in the more theoretical aspects of film and media, I believe that studying the practical ultimately makes for better scholarship,” Sikand says. “She has seen ‘Cranes of Hope’ develop through various stages of production and has been involved with transcribing interviews for me. I hope an insight into the filmmaking process will make her a better scholar of film.”
In addition to assisting with the film, Huq is assisting Sikand with research for another film, “One if by Land…,” about undocumented immigration, and with her manuscript on Odissi dance. She has also been working on content for the film and media studies website, researching curriculum for a class, and writing an article for this fall’s Tournees Film Festival.
Huq says that her EXCEL experience has taught her the importance and satisfaction of steady, patient work.
“I have come to not expect instantaneous results, and have also come to appreciate the value of committing time and energy to one task at a time. During the school year, I would find myself multitasking for work and for class. It has been a pleasant change of pace to start a project and proceed with it steadily, seeing it into finality. It is a very satisfying feeling,” Huq says.
After Lafayette, Huq would like to pursue feminist film theory in graduate school and working alongside Sikand has helped inspire her decision.
“Professor Sikand is an excellent teacher, and her passion for her work is a major driving force behind my own incentive to become a film major. Her experience, both as a documentary filmmaker and as an academic, has been a tremendous asset to me,” Huq says.