Veena Rao on Filmmaking and Revealing the Extraordinary in Strangers

Veena Rao has traveled to many corners of the world - Egypt, Myanmar, Australia, Morocco, New Zealand, and - most recently, India, where Rao directed 'Mumbai Mornings' for The Atlantic, sharing the story of Abbas Sheikh, a jewelry polisher by day, and one of India's top ultra-marathon runners. 

 
It is, of course, a unique gift to draw out that kind of intimacy and trust with a person, and, as a viewer, Veena’s work leaves a kind of afterglow - a way of looking at others in a different light.
 

Synopsis: Every morning at 5, Sheikh is up well before the crowds, traffic, and heat to run along Mumbai’s Marine Drive. At 9, he’s at work in a factory for 12 hours. The filmmaker Veena Rao captures the duality of Sheikh’s life and what running means to him. 


As filmmakers, we often are encouraged to create from "what we know", to pull from our own life experience and perspective to shape the films we create. Yet, to describe the work of Veena Rao, a deeper and counter-approach seems true - her body of work seems inspired by the unknown in strangers.

BUREAU: The stories you cover are subjects that most of us would pass over without noticing, but you seem to have an uncanny sense as to when there is something there that needs to be shared or uncovered. What is that process / intuition like for you?

Veena: I've always been inspired by the idea of revealing what makes people we might typically see and interact with in our everyday lives, unique and extraordinary. I like finding the thing that brings people joy, or drives them, or makes them come alive, and sharing it with an audience. I think this connection between the audience and the person on the screen, who graciously shows us part of themselves, is magical, and is the reason I make films. 


It is, of course, a unique gift to draw out that kind of intimacy and trust with a person, and, as a viewer, Veena's work leaves a kind of afterglow - a way of looking at others in a different light. Reminding us that in every person there is something - sometimes on the surface, sometimes deep within - but something worth sharing if someone takes the time to really listen. 

Mike Ambs

PO BOX 3464, Running Springs, CA 92382

I love to film things, tell stories, and read on the subway. I'm pretty sure blue whales are my power animal.