Interview with Armaan Uplekar, director of Eternal

Armaan Uplekar. Photo by Jon Sams

In 2014, ‘Eternal’ was officially selected for the ‘Let’s All Be Free Film Festival’. A heartbreaking documentary of the tragedy that took place in August 2012, when a white supremacist entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and murdered six people. In the aftermath, family members of the victims move to cope and understand the tragedy.

Eternal is a brilliant short film that inspires kindness to people from all different backgrounds, religions and race.

We interviewed the director, Armaan Uplekar, about the film, his inspiration and what he working on at the moment.

What is Eternal about?

“Eternal” is a short documentary following the aftermath of the racially-motivated murders of six Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The documentary focuses on the families of the victims moving to understand and cope with that tragedy.

What lead you to become a director?

Its something I’ve wanted to do from onset, since I was a kid. As I grew up, I think I recognized the sort of storytelling and communication that can accomplished through filmmaking, and directing was a way to do that — to share stories that can be both personally and socially relevant.

What inspired you to make Eternal?

The majority of my life has been spent in post-9/11 America, and I ended growing up among a lot of racial tension directed towards Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus etc. So what happened on August 5th, 2012 was part of that narrative, and it was something that was very personal to me, since half of my family comes from Sikhism. My grandfather is president of a Sikh temple in New York. And I think everything that followed the massacre in Oak Creek — the grief, the pain, but also the incredible strides a community made to move forward from tragedy and form the basis for real, meaningful change  — was a story that really needed to be told.

How long did it take you make Eternal from start to finish?

If I were to condense the time it took, probably three months in terms of prep, the actual production, and then post. We didn’t have a lot of time in Oak Creek, so a lot of the legwork was making contacts and building a schedule that would allow us to finish production in that short window.

What was the hardest part about making this short film?

Interviewing families of the victims of the shooting — its tough, you know, to come in and ask these people who you’ve never met before about what very well might be the most painful moment of their lives. They were incredible people, and they shared a lot with us.

Do you prefer making short films or feature lengths? And why?

So far I’ve worked in the short film medium, because I think at this current juncture its feasible to do in terms of budget and scheduling, and its taught me how to focus on the essentials, and cut to the core of what I’m trying to communicate. That being said, my goal is to move into feature filmmaking, and I’m excited to apply what my experiences with short filmmaking in that arena.

What are you working on now?

We recently completed a short film I wrote and directed titled “DIXIE”, which I’m very excited about. I’m currently developing a feature-length version of “DIXIE”, as well as developing and pulling together all the necessary resources to shoot another short film in early 2016.

How did you hear about the festival?

Through Withoutabox — Let’s All Be Free caught my interest because its mission really seemed to gel with what we were trying to get across with “Eternal.”

Do you apply to festivals regularly and if so, how do they benefit your career?

Yes — its invaluable to meet and network with fellow filmmakers as well as an audience, and those are opportunities that I’m truly, truly thankful for.

Do you have any tips for young filmmakers who don’t have a great deal of resources?

Its tough — really tough. But the most important thing you can do is surround yourself with good people — people motivated to who not only want to make something of themselves but who also want to see you make something of yourself. Keep honing your skills by whatever means necessary: keep putting out work and learn from your mistakes, use whatever makeshift equipment you can cull together.  But always keep the people who you trust and love and who you can collaborate with close — they’re the ones who make it worth it.

To keep up to date with what Armaan is up to, check out his website.

To submit to the 2015 LABF film festival, click here.

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