This week’s inspirational figure is documentary filmaker Susan Gluth.
Susan Gluth was born in 1968 in Hamburg. After training as a forest ranger, cook and veterinarian, she studied Business and Commerce, followed by Film at the University of Television & Film in Munich. Active as a freelance filmmaker, producer and director of photography, Susan has given the world such compelling films as L’amour chez Tati (1999), Nulla si sa, tutto s’immagina … secondo Fellini (2003), Shadows of Fate, A Refugee Childhood (2006), Soap and Water (2008) and Playing Hooky (2014).
Currently, Susan is screening her latest work URMILA: MY MEMORY IS MY POWER, a film following the subject, Urmila’s intense and emotional journey as an aspiring lawyer and anti-child slavery activist fighting for the rights of the girls of Nepal. Urmila herself escaped a life of indentured servitude – at the age of six, Urmila’s family in Nepal sold her into slavery. Now at age 21, she struggles to take back her power now that she is free, and works as a fervent anti-slavery activist whose goal is to see an end the ‘kamlahari’ slave trade, once and for all. The intimate film follows Urmila’s quest for justice, while navigating the personal pressures of leading a balanced life, as well as dealing with outsider’s expectations and the shadows of her past dictate her life.
“Urmila teaches us to stand up and do something. She is not only a hero for the girls in Nepal, she’s a hero for everyone,” says Susan. “If Urmila can, we all can. It’s not only about slavery; it’s about life in general. Her story inspires people, especially the younger generation.”
We got the chance to chat with Susan about why she does the work she does, and what advice she can share with aspiring filmakers.
Susan, what is your “why”?
Can’t explain, I just have to do it.
How did you to get into the work that you do?
By curiousity. Driven by the power of pictures. Now it’s passion.
Tell me about how you discovered Urmila, and how she became the subject for your film?
I read an article about her in Spiegel newsmagazine. From then on the journey started. I was fascinated by her power, and tried to figure out how it is possible to step out of such a miserable life and turn it to a total different direction.
What were some of the challenges you encountered in the making of your film? What are some of the successes you had along the way as well?
To talk about the past without being too explicit, to respectfully handle the girls’ demons (which are with them all time) and the fact that we didn’t ask for a permit to make the film. We had one foot in prison the whole time. And, most important not to make an NGO-film that is focussed on sorrow and grief to make you feel pity.
To discover a country by its people is very rewarding. Get to know them this close is everytime again a huge present.
Who inspires you?
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers, activists or creatives, who are maybe feeling a bit lost?
Follow your inspirations and ideas. Concentrate on yourself. Don’t count too much on what other people say or might think.
If there was one charity you would ask our readers to donate their time, money or exposure to, what would it be?
I think just look around the corner in your street. Cleaning your neighbourhood, help to educate refugees or help old people out. There’s so much to so even in our society …