What does it take for an immigrant woman of color to earn acceptance as an American artist? UNHEARD STORIES is a full-length documentary film about the subtle, silencing obstacles that face immigrants, women, and people of color in the US. It explores these through the life and art of Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, who came to the US from India to study photojournalism but, instead, found her voice as an artist making artworks that, in turn, give voice to others. But the art world ghettoizes people, muffling valuable perspectives, unexpected insights, and rich histories. This applies as much to Matthew herself as to the women and men she invites as collaborators and to the resulting photo-based artworks. The film features a number of these: the series, “An Indian from India,” for example, riffs on 19th-century colonial photography as a response to being continually asked, “where are you really from”; the photo-animations of “Open Wound” merge family photographs of Indian and Pakistani immigrants with memories of violent sectarianism they have brought with them. Such personal recollections sound a powerful warning in their new American home. The film begins with the circumstances that propel Matthew’s immigration and launch her artistic journey. By many metrics, she is a success: her work is in significant exhibitions and garners critical praise. But, as Swarthmore College professor Bakirathi Mani points out in the film, the shows are ethnically pegged, and the venues have a history of racist ethnography. So can an immigrant woman of color ever transcend the art world’s traditional silos? Through UNHEARD STORIES we will find out.

This film is made possible with the generous support of:

Derek Freese Documentary Fund

Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

Rhode Island Council for the Humanities

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