"Underwater Elephants":  Rajan the Elephant swims with his trainer in the Andaman Islands in India (Dec. 2008)

Cesare Naldi

"Underwater Elephants": Rajan the Elephant swims with his trainer in the Andaman Islands in India (Dec. 2008)

Svara Opens at Brooks Institute’s Gallery 27

Culture Clash of the Week

Mere months before a little film called Slumdog Millionaire came along and stole America’s heart (not to mention the majority of the 2009 Oscars), a group of Brooks students headed off to South India to make a movie of their own. While there, 20 selected students traipsed though Southern Kerala’s jungles, studied the faces of the country’s impoverished, and infiltrated an all-girls orphanage in Alamadhi. The resulting film and accompanying projects, created through the Brook’s annual international documentary trip, is nothing short of breathtaking. Filled with bright colors, bustling culture, and the faces and stories of the country’s people, Svara presents a true snapshot of Indian life.

Visually, India is a dream,” said 24-year-old Jeff Johns, a third year visual journalism major. “It’s an explosion of the senses and a true immersion into humanity. I felt lost in time, surrounded by tradition and soaked in culture. Nowhere else on Earth have I felt so transported into such an ancient society, all while being able to capture my experiences with such modern technology.”

In addition to the documentary, the students behind Svara have created a multimedia look into South Indian culture that crosses both mediums and disciplines. “We created a documentary, a book, a Web site, a DVD, and several print exhibitions,” explained Ellen Webber, a third year student and Svara’s producer. “We have been working on this as a group for just about a year, and it has not only been a vital learning experience, but a true joy to see how our group has really pooled all of our talents to create this work. All that is left is to unveil it to the world. : My hope is that people will come away with an intimate sense of the people and culture of South India, feeling as if they themselves have visited there.”

The students will present Svara this Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). The multimedia presentation will be immediately followed by an opening reception for the students’ documentary stills at Brooks Institute’s Gallery 27 (27 E. Cota St.). Both book and DVD will be available for purchase. For more information about Svara, visit

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