Presidential Diversity award winner tells diverse stories through film
As a massive civil rights movement rages on throughout the country, the concepts of diversity and inclusion have become even more heightened in college spaces. Here at CU Denver, Roma Sur, a screenwriting professor with the Film and Television program, strives to create an equitable and diverse environment, both within and beyond the classroom.
This past May, Sur was awarded the President’s Diversity Award. According to the CU website, the President’s Diversity Award “recognizes significant achievements of faculty, staff, students, and academic or administrative units in developing a culturally and intellectually diverse university community reflective of inclusive excellence.”
Sur embodies diversity throughout both her professional work and her teaching. Amidst the many crises of 2020, she’s seen those values spread through the film industry as well. “I think it’s a really important topic actually in the current times. We have three or four crises happening right now… I think it’s more important than ever. I’m also seeing that TV producers, film producers, are really cognizant of that. They’re really recognizing it and really embracing it,” said Sur.
In her professional work, Sur uses her own personal relationship with diversity to advance stories from underrepresented groups in cinema. “So all my characters, in all my stories, are characters who are trying to push their boundaries and who really know how to give adversity a tight backhand,” said Sur. “I think that is one of the true definitions of diversity, right, you’re telling stories about people who are not largely represented in media, underrepresented voices, female voices, minorities.”
Right now, Sur’s upcoming documentary film Maa tells the story of her mother, whose dream is to see Niagara Falls. “Right now, the story Maa is about an 80-year-old, and that’s a segment of our population you don’t see a lot in cinema. I think TV and cinema is obsessed with youth,” said Sur. “And I thought it was so important that I narrate this story about my mom, who’s almost 80, and her life trajectory is just phenomenal, and it has to be told, it has to be shared, and it’s inspiring.”
From teaching the importance of a diverse cast and diverse stories to using assignment prompts to foster change in the community, Sur integrates diversity into her work in the Film and Television Program at CU Denver. “I really try to see if I can take student works beyond the classroom and make a difference in society,” said Sur.
One of Sur’s biggest achievements in advancing diversity in cinema has been her study abroad program. Launched in 2019, 11 students traveled with Sur to Bollywood, India, to shoot a screenplay about a girl from Mumbai and a girl from Colorado. “The film is in the genre of LGBTQ which is a pretty underrepresented voice in Indian cinema. And I think that is one of the reasons it really won the hearts of the Indian audience,” said Sur. So far, the film has won 11 awards in India. “And it’s still winning, it’s still getting recognition,” said Sur.
While her study abroad program is on hold due to the pandemic, Sur hopes to continue the program, alternating between fiction and nonfiction focuses for each trip. “This is really my baby, it’s a vision I’ve had for a long time. And I’m grateful to my department, and my department chair, and the dean for supporting this program,” said Sur.
This is a selection of the Sept. 30 issue. To view the full issue, visit: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/70083/