OUT in the main//stream: Prathiba Parmar

Last night at the British Institute in Florence, film maker and feminist activist Prathiba Parmar gave a lively, well-attended talk called “OUT in the main // stream.”

Born in Kenya to parents of Pakistani origin, Prathiba moved to England at an early age, and was quickly drawn to the possibilities of film effecting positive (political) change.

She collaborated in 1993’s Warrior Masks with Alice Walker (the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, awarded for The Color Purple in 1983). This led Prathiba to an abiding interest in Walker’s life, and a strong desire to make a documentary about her.

Alice Walker, born in Georgia to sharecropping parents, was their eighth child. Throughout her talk, Prathiba told the audience lovely and vivid stories about Alice’s life.

One story concerned how an about-8-year-old Alice was severely injured in one eye by a sibling’s inadvertent discharge of an air rifle. Permanently blinded, and quite self-conscious about the scarring, Walker nonetheless married a white civil rights lawyer (illegal at the time), settled in Mississippi, and had a baby.

One day, when the child was around 2, Walker saw her staring at her eye, and braced herself for the inevitable question. Instead, she said, “Mommy, you’ve got the world in your eye.” As Prathiba told the audience last night: “it’s a wonderful analogy for Alice.”

Tonight’s the last night to see a screening of Parmar’s first feature film, 2006’s Nina’s Heavenly Delights. It’s part of the 32nd Festival Internazionale di Cinema e Donne, and will be shown at 9 pm at the Odeon in Piazza Strozzi.

Parmar actively seeks funding for her Alice Walker documentary; if you’re interested in learning more, come on out to the Odeon tonight and meet her, or go to http://www.kalifilms.com/pratibha-parmar.html for more information.

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