UT Film Alum Wins Student Academy Award (Watch)

An Academy Award without a small golden statue? Can it be?

It can if it is the Student Academy Awards. This year UT alum Soham Mehta, BA ’00, MFA ’10, was honored with such an award for his short film, Fatakra (which means “firecracker” in the Gujarati language of western India).

The competition, conducted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy Foundation, annually recognizes both American and foreign students for their films in four different categories. Mehta’s has won in the narrative category.

Mehta’s narrative tells the story of Naveen, an Indian man who left his wife and child to seek opportunities in the United States. Upon his departure he had promised his wife an absence of six months to one year at the most. The film depicts the family’s dynamic after one year has turned to three.

Meant largely to reflect the experience of many immigrants, the film is loosely based on Mehta’s own parents’ experience. His father left for the U.S. when Mehta was 2 years old. He returned two years later when the whole family moved to Houston, where his father was working as a chemical engineer.

The idea for this particular film, however, didn’t come until Mehta himself became engaged to his girlfriend, with whom he had shared a long-distance relationship for four years. He lived in Texas while she lived in the Northeast.

Upon the engagement, a promised end to a long time of separation, Mehta felt excitement, anticipation, and anxiety.

“I wanted a film that allowed me to mine that emotional landscape,” he says.

On June 11 Mehta will join his fellow student filmmaker winners in Los Angeles where he will learn if his film earned a gold, silver, or bronze placement, with the potential of winning $5,000.

Is he looking forward to the event? Naturally. “They kind of roll out the pomp and circumstance because it’s the Academy,” he says. “Filmmaking is hard; this is sort of the taste of the Hollywood luxury.”

Well, the Academy was certainly impressed with his film. But surprisingly, Mehta says it’s hard to get others to criticize one’s own film. So how does he judge others’ reactions to his work? By watching them, of course.

“When I’m at the Alamo Drafthouse [for a screening] I try to watch the films that people choose to stop eating in,” he says — that is how you know they enjoyed it.


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