The Indian director Shaison P. Ouseph talks to Verbum Press
Award-winning filmmaker, Shaison P. Ouseph from Mumbai, India, has been to Italy twice by invitation, once to complete a documentary on Puerto Rico and again to film part of the story of Indian nuns in Italy. By way of introduction, Shaison shares through this interview more of what makes his work unique. I create documentaries that show the stories of ordinary people,” Shaison began. “Narrative has its place, but to me the images are more moving. Showing stories goes directly into the hearts and minds of the people, and that is powerful. More than the beauty or the drama, I go for the spirit of it. I want to show the world the untold stories of humanity in the form of video, mostly for people to come to know truth, relate and transform their lives.
Born of goodly parents in an obscure village in southeastern India, Kerala, the community that Shaison called home was comprised of people from a mixture of religions, including Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Jews. Colorful religious celebrations took place in his village almost daily. The boy sneaked into the gatherings, observing the activities and soaking in the rich cultural experience. The sights and sounds of the different festivals fascinated me,” Shaison recalled. “In India, any festival is a colorful festival, and I loved seeing the dances and joyful faces of the people. By the age of twelve or thirteen, I developed an interest in the visuals. I grew up in a middle-class Christian family with traditional values and much faith. My parents were ideal teachers. They taught me to serve the poor and reach out to the needy. My mother cared for us and inspired us with her creative ways of running a family. My father was my first teacher. He taught me to look beyond religion, past the four walls and see the other side of things. I learned from him that the best weapon against injustice is showing people in the world the poor who are suffering. At first, I wanted to be a Catholic priest, but I couldn’t continue with the specialized thoughts. I was impacted by an awareness that every human being is a child of God. I felt guided by the higher principle of equality of all – red, brown, black and white – and unity instead of division. These ideas weren’t generally accepted by religions or the caste system of India. My village inspired me, and I went ahead with my creative plan,” Shaison continued. “I had a passion to do something for society and humanity. A small group of youngsters called the Kids Group gathered each Sunday to talk and plan activities. We made up funny little dramas to act out for the villagers.
As a young man, Shaison set out with his camera, a keen eye and compassionate heart and soon began touching the world with his distinctively sensitive and honest documentary films. I am not keen on glamour, the artificial side of things,” he noted. “I like being myself. No fame or fortune. Glamour today is gone tomorrow, but truth and the struggles of life have a long-term impact on humanity. After I show short films and documentaries, we talk about them, and this inspires me to go beyond and move ahead. We all need help from others to change. We need ideas and operations from many countries, which is why my films come from all over the world. In Uganda, for example, some kids couldn’t go to school because there was no bridge over a small river when it rained. We made a short clip of the situation and sent it to students in the United States. The students collected resources for the children in Uganda to help build a bridge. As a result of the gift, the school authorities constructed a small bridge in 2016, and the kids enjoyed an uninterrupted learning process.
Shaison’s film production company, Veritas Productions, is based in Mumbai, India and specializes in social documentary with a global reach. His public service campaigns promote literacy and the empowerment of women and action against child exploitation. They have won him many national and international accolades. There is a global aspect to peace and caring, especially with individuals who don’t have a platform to express themselves. Shaison explained. Creating a platform to see human stories and discuss them is becoming a positive movement, and there are good people who want to be part of it. They give us inspiration. I don’t think my direction will change because this is what I like, and the people appreciate and encourage me to do similar,“ he concluded.
As a filmmaker, Dr. Shaison searches the world to find meaningful subjects. Films on the side effects of cancer treatment in Denmark, local classical music of Sweden, YVCO in Uganda, Helping Hands in Nepal, migrant issues in Australia, the Bali Spirit Festival in Indonesia and the work of a gifted healer in the United States are some of the subjects that Shaison has recently documented. An internationally acclaimed filmmaker, cameraman and photographer, Shaison’s many credits range from director of photography to art director on a myriad of documentaries and independent feature projects. Among the esteemed organizations that have bestowed awards and certificates on him for his work on social issues include the United Nations, the US Embassy and the International Labour Organization. In March 2018, he went to Nigeria where World Institute for Peace (WIP) recognized him as the ‘World Icon of Media for Peace 2017’. In 2019, he was appointed as Gandhi Peace Ambassador (Chief Convenor) for Europe. Recently, Brampton International University in Canada bestowed on him an Honorary Doctorate for his contribution to the Media and Arts. Shaison has such a talent to capture the absolute beauties in nature and people’s faces. He is dedicated to what he does, and he has a spirit that comes through his work. It’s beautiful.” Natasha King – University of Notre Dame, Australia. I appreciate Shaison’s ability to expose things that affect our lives which are very relevant. His ability to work outside of his culture and country is remarkable. Dennis Eaton, professor – River Valley Community College, USA. Dr. Shaison Ouseph, professor of film from India, is a man of intelligence, a man of integrity, and we are so happy that he was in Nigeria with us.” Lamina Kalamudden, director – WIP, Nigeria
Dr. Shaison teaches filmmaking around the world. In February 2018, he had the privilege of presenting at the successful International Youth Summit in Nepal. He is currently the head of the Department for Film & Television Communication at XIC, St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India where he recently offered a successful three-week intensive filmmaking course with 35 students who enjoyed and benefitted from the experience. The filmmaker’s goal is to inspire young people and share powerful human stories through creating meaningful films. Clearly, Dr. Shaison Ouseph is uniquely qualified to do just that. His association with International organizations, such as 100 Humanitarians, Habitat for Humanity, YVCO Alliance Africa, Seeds of Peace and the Life Story Library Foundation is another milestone in his life. In 2017, the International Independent Film Awards acknowledged his co-directed film “Playa Azul I Love You,” made in USA. Dr. Shaison is an innovative faculty member at XIC. The students really enjoy his sessions and benefit from his class.
Sandra K. Rana, Dean, Finance & Administration – XIC, Mumbai, India
Shaison, you believed in us. You saw behind the words. You believed that story has power, and your compassionate heart inspires us still.”
Paulette Stevens, president – Life Story Library, USA
Shaison is one of the directors at Matrix of Learning in United States, and he has been featured in many national and international magazines, radio and video programs. His work as a director for various commercial and non-commercial audio-visual projects has also been well recognized.
Shaison’s latest films, ‘Baano’, the story of violence on women in India, and “Rescue,” a heart-touching story of women in Kenya, let people feel who Shaison really is. His upcoming feature film, “Sister Rani Maria,” is a true story of a Catholic nun who was murdered for empowering the tribal women and children in the remotest villages in India.
*Roberto Sciarrone, direttore responsabile di Verbum Press