Poet turned filmmaker makes her first festival appearance

York poet Sharanpal Kaur Ruprai will make her first foray into the film business this weekend, both as a filmmaker and as an artist giving a reading of her written work. Her short film (Narrow Field of Vision), which marks the journey of a young woman – her mother – into marriage, will be shown at this weekend’s Spinning Wheel Film Festival at the Royal Ontario Museum.

What started as a class project to get outside her creative comfort zone has turned into the first of a planned series of five works – based on a Sikh tradition of five as a significant number – which Ruprai, a graduate student in humanities at York, calls visual poems. They are all based on 8-millimetre film footage of her parents’ 1973 traditional Sikh wedding ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya.

Left: Scene from (Narrow Field of Vision)

(Narrow Field of Vision) is the first in the series of films that reflect Ruprai’s interest in her family history and her research into the construction of Sikh identity through symbols, narrative, film, theatre and literature. This instalment  features her parents’ wedding ceremony. In the sequence, her mother’s head is lowered – a posture which restricts her field of vision – inspiring the title of the mostly silent film. The soundtrack is Ruprai’s voice reading selections of her poetry. Other films in the series will focus on details from the grainy footage of women preparing food on the floor, men all dressed in white turbans and her mother at home before the ceremony.

Sharanpal Kaur RupraiRight: Sharanpal Kaur Ruprai

Born in Cambridge, Ont., Ruprai grew up in Winnipeg, Man., after her parents moved there for work, and earned bachelor degrees in education and arts. She took her master’s degree in English literature at the University of Calgary and decided to pursue her PhD at York to work with Professor Arun Mukherjee and fellow poet Professor Rishma Dunlop, coordinator of York’s Creative Writing Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Her published work has been included in two anthologies, Exposed and Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets, co-edited by Dunlop and York Professor Priscila Uppal.

How did Ruprai come around to basing her creative work on an old home movie? “I decided to do something with the film, which had been sitting in a closet for years,” she explains. “I had the footage transferred to DVD and took a MacBook course on how to make iMovies.”

Ruprai’s film will be part of a group of screenings scheduled for Saturday, at 2pm, at the Royal Ontario Museum. She also plans to attend the festival gala Friday and will join Dunlop for a poetry reading in the museum’s Glass Room on Sunday at 3:30pm.

For more information on screening times, visit the festival web site.