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VMA Graduate Students Receive Distinguished Film Grants

For one student of a college to receive a University Film Video Association (UFVA) Carole Fielding Grants is noteworthy. But this year, two Emerson graduate students – Asma Khoshmehr, MFA ’24, and Yue Hua, MFA ’24 – were two of the four recipients of the awards.

The UFVA Carole Fielding Grant is a prestigious $1,000 award that aims to support innovative projects and initiatives within the field of film and video. It is given to individuals who demonstrate exceptional promise in film and media. 

Khoshmehr’s One Thousand and One Nights in Zanzibar

Asma Khoshmehr stands in front of film equipment
Asma Khoshmehr, MFA ’24

Khoshmehr will use the grant for her in-production hybrid documentary, One Thousand and One Nights in Zanzibar, which she directed, produced, and wrote. The film, which utilizes virtual reality, revolves around social issues, including generational trauma, forced marriages, and political-sexual violence occurring under authoritarian regimes. Her goal with the film is to elevate the voices of marginalized women, shedding light on their experiences and struggles. 

“It is finally an opportunity for me to share a long-kept story of several women in my family,” said Khoshmehr. 

Raised by an Iranian father and a Tanzanian mother, she draws inspiration from East-African and Middle Eastern cultures. Exploring the myths and folklores of her cultural heritage, she is particularly captivated by Scheherazade, a character in the collection of tales, One Thousand and One Nights.

A girl with arabic written on her arms and face lies with her eyes closed
A still from One Thousand and One Nights in Zanzibar.

“By telling a story, [Scheherazade] healed and humanized the evil dictator [King Shahriar],” said Khoshmehr. “I was always curious how she did that. I found the story of the political sexual violence that my mom’s family underwent under a dictatorship very similar to the actions of the king in One Thousand and One Nights.”

Khoshmehr is using the grant to fund her travel expenses back to Africa, allowing her to further delve into the story and personally meet those affected by the violence. 

“I am grateful for the grant and the opportunity that UFVA is giving me to meet new people and broaden the audience scope,” said Khoshmehr. 

Khoshmehr said VMA Professor Marc Fields encouraged her to dig deeper into the research to explore the personal and emotional dimensions of the story. 

  • A still image from the film One Thousand and One Nights in Zanzibar
  • A person sitting in a canoe-like structure with a VR headset on
  • A person wears a VR headset

“I stumbled upon this family secret by accident, and it was during [Fields’] Documentary Film class that I initially shared my very small findings about why my mom escaped Tanzania,” said Khoshmehr. “He was the one who transformed this small clue into such a meaningful, personal, and deep project by consistently supporting and mentoring me.”

She credited Fields’ Advanced Documentary Workshop course for introducing her to hybrid documentaries, which combine traditional documentary storytelling with experimental filmmaking.

Making the film has led Khoshmehr to reflect on her self-discovery and creative journey, while also encouraging future storytellers to be resilient despite any setbacks. 

“On the path to making a documentary, you find not just your story, but also your real self and special style,” said Khoshmehr. “Even with challenges, I stayed strong. To all storytellers out there: Don’t give up. Find the story that needs telling.”

Hua’s Blue Bird

Shot on multi-16 mm, Hue’s film, Blue Bird, explores the journey of a bird’s soul to find its body, a metaphor for a journey of self-discovery. 

Yue Hua
Yue Hua, MFA ’24

“The work reflects my personal journey to find myself, as well as my meditations on the relationship between spirit and body and the struggle to accept and love myself,” said Hua.

When Hua moved to the United States from China three years ago, she was uncertain about her aspirations. She found inspiration in a bird that many shun.

“Two years ago, I started to film footage of pigeons walking around the city and I began to feel a connection to it,” said Hua. “At that time, I was taking [VMA Associate Professor] Paul Turano’s Analog Film Production course and it was super inspiring. I kept working with analog film the following semester and I started to shoot even more footage about birds, and that is how the project started. ”

  • Film on a light board
  • A still image of a water feature
  • Two people stand behind film projectors.
  • A collage of four images

VMA Assistant Professor Malic Amalya’s Experimental Media course introduced her to use alternative methods of storytelling through painting, dance, literature, and poetry.

“By experimenting with images, sound, poems, and language, I construct bridges spanning the distance between spoken and unspoken, false and vague, past and memory,” said Hua. “Areas such as making film print, print sound, and distribution, all cost money so that is where the grant funds will go,” explained Hua.

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