University of Rochester

Fear of the Unknown: Filmmakers from the Tribal Region of Nagaland Debut Work in Rochester

July 13, 2011

Relationship Shaped by Educators at the University of Rochester and Nazareth College

A rare cultural exchange will take place July 1526 when a group of young filmmakers from Nagaland, a remote tribal region in India that borders Burma/Myanmar, visits the United States for the first time to debut their work in Rochester, N.Y.

Heather Layton, artist and senior lecturer of art at the University of Rochester, along with her husband, Brian Bailey, professor in adolescent education at Nazareth College, will host the filmmakers during their nearly two-week stay. The seeds for this trip to America were planted last December when Bailey and Layton were invited to Nagaland for two weeks to foster international relations and promote the arts as a form of cultural diplomacy.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to connect two sides of the world using film, music, and visual arts as the common ground," says Layton. The goal of the project, as explained by Layton, is to create a productive and sustainable international exchange through artistic collaborations.

The U.S. State Department warns Americans about the dangers of traveling to Nagaland, an area with a complex history of insurgent activity and rumors of headhunting, but the academic pair say they were welcomed with open arms. In fact, during their stay, while discussing American culture at Nagaland University, one Nagaland University student said, "please tell them that we are not headhunters; we are hunters of knowledge."

Layton and Bailey became familiar with Nagaland after Layton met Naga musician Theja Meru of the Rattle and Hum Music Society in 2010 at the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester. Meru was one of seven South Asian artists invited to the United States as part of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs' International Visitor Leadership Program. Layton was then the first international artist invited to Nagaland, where she installed the first American contemporary painting exhibition. Bailey and Meru cofounded GLOCAL, the first youth film festival in Nagaland, with films screened by both Naga and American youth. Both professors also gave lectures on their research in the arts, media, and social justice.

"We learned so much from visiting Nagaland and feel strongly about returning the opportunity for our Naga friends to learn more about our culture. We also hope that this is but one of many opportunities for our cultures to work together through the arts," says Bailey.

The filmmakers will begin their journey in New York City, where they will meet with artists and musicians. From there, they will travel to Rochester and stay at Nazareth while attending workshops, screenings, and eventually debuting their films to the greater Rochester community.

Suggested Media Opportunities:
Monday, July 18

  • Breakfast at Nazareth College (9 a.m.)
  • Meet with local filmmakers at Young Lion Studio (2 p.m.)
  • Local Filmmaker screening at University of Rochester (5 p.m.)

"EXCHANGE": Three Short Films by local filmmakers (5 p.m.)

  • Mara Ahmed, Linda Moroney, Joanne Larson, David Smith, and Reenah Golden
  • Gowen Room, Wilson Commons, University of Rochester
  • Free and open to the public

Wednesday, July 19

  • Nagaland Cultural Exchange Program at Nazareth College (7 p.m.)
  • Screening of selected works/discussion with Naga filmmakers
  • The Forum at Nazareth College
  • Free and open to the public

Friday, July 22

  • Naga filmmakers will take part in the Teen Film Camp Festival at Nazareth College
  • 5 p.m., A-14 in the Arts Center at Nazareth College

For additional information about the exchange please visit Layton and Bailey's blog. Since returning from Nagaland, the site has received thousands of hits from more than seventeen countries. For more information on the upcoming events please contact Valerie Alhart at the University of Rochester and Julie Long at Nazareth College.

About Nazareth College
Founded in 1924, Nazareth College is located on a close-knit, suburban campus in the dynamic, metropolitan region of Rochester, N.Y. The College offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences and professional programs in health and human services, education, and management. Nazareth's strong cultures of service and community prepare students to be successful professionals and engaged citizens. The College enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students.