Grant Period: Over one year
Shumona Goel is a Mumbai-based experimental filmmaker who has worked extensively with personal archives, family photographs, audio recordings and found footage, often to explore her own personal history of migration. With this archival fellowship, Shumona will delve into ISRO’s archives to extend her interest in ‘found materials’ to the space of a public archive. Recounting how her interest in the ISRO archive took shape, Shumona says, “During the course of a conversation, the experimental filmmaker Kamal Swaroop mentioned that he had been part of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) programme at ISRO in the mid-70s, along with other filmmakers from FTII. This got me thinking about what these filmmakers might have created at ISRO, and whether this material could be found somewhere.”
Shumona was to find out that SITE was an experimental satellite communications project jointly designed by NASA and ISRO to create and disseminate informational programmes for rural India. One of the main objectives of the SITE programme was to produce content that would help develop ‘a scientific atmosphere’ in the country. The experiment ran for one year from 1 August 1975 to 31 July 1976, reaching more than 2,500 villages in six Indian states. ISRO recruited graduates from FTII to pursue new techniques and produce innovative programmes. Underscoring the value of this phenomenal collection of vintage education films Shumona says, “Unlike films that have been preserved and archived for their entertainment or artistic value, most educational/instructional films were created to serve research, educational, or rhetorical purposes. When their job was done, they were tossed into the dustbin of history. As a result, most of these films were not preserved in traditional archives, and records of their production, distribution, and exhibition were often seen as valueless, and thus destroyed.”
During the course of this fellowship, Shumona will work closely with scholars and curators to unearth and research these historically and culturally significant but till now unknown films. Shumona will put together a public symposium towards the end of her fellowship period. She contemplates to use the materials from the ISRO archives to create a film essay titled, The Way of Light. By the end of the fellowship, Shumona will have selected the inclusive footage for the film.