“I believe I convinced her to give me a ‘blind chance’ with my confidence and belief in myself, and this is something that the IB encouraged a lot… you feel that you are an individual, you feel that your opinion and your voice deserve just as much attention as anyone else’s.”
IB Diplomate, 1998
St. Olav videregående skole, Norway
Majoring in Biology may not seem like a step to become a travelling social documentary filmmaker, but that is exactly how Julienne Rathore began her journey. After receiving her IB diploma from St. Olav videregående skole in 1998, her initial love of nature and film has taken her on a journey to become a scriptwriter, director, cinematographer and editor. Julienne has traversed the globe while tracing stories on the impact of landmines in Cambodia, religious practices in India, and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her latest film, offering a highly authentic insight into the lives of street children in India, will be completed at the end of this month.
Julienne had initial aspirations to pursue biology, and graduated with a BSc 2:1 Honours degree from the University of Southampton in 2001. In retrospect, she said “my choice of Biology was based on several things, but I was definitely fascinated by wildlife documentaries and the apparent adventures of Sir David Attenborough.” During the holiday of her final year, she worked as a research assistant in the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil.
However, she soon left the field of Biology. After graduating she continued travelling and spent a month helping an organisation working with street children in Iquitos, the Peruvian city in the Amazon. She also eventually travelled to India to discover her roots. Here she found herself strongly drawn to the issues faced by street children. She started work at a Children’s home in Hyderabad and became more and more involved in their lives.
“This all culminated in an attempt to buy a house in New Delhi in India for a group of street children whom I had been helping,” says Julienne. “Their answer was no. They were not at all interested in moving into a house with a roof. They promised to visit me, but they would not give up their lives on the streets.” It came as a surprise, but she says, “I could appreciate their strange sense of freedom after spending so many years on the streets.” She decided to change her course and hoped that her interest in storytelling and film could be a powerful tool for bringing these issues to light.
The IB experience helped her develop the initial tools that she would need to make a career transition later on in life. “The main thing that comes to mind,” she says, “is the wide spectrum of subjects that one has to choose from in the IB, as well as the obligation to choose subjects from several disciplines.” She continues, “I believe that this, more than anything else, facilitated my choice of career, as [the IB] gave me a wider option than I would have found in the conventional Norwegian or UK systems of education.” She believes, “this is one of the greatest benefits of the IB, as I find it far too early to expect young people to choose the final subject for their career at the age of 17.”
We asked Julienne about how she began her film career. She has an MA in Digital Documentary Film from the University of Sussex; however, this wasn’t always her area of expertise. Before she began her degree she held a passion for film and photographic art but lacked the pre-requisites for the masters program. To get around her lack of a relevant Bachelor degree and a portfolio, she originally applied for a parallel course of study in web media.
On the first day of classes, she spoke to the head of the documentary film program about her aspirations: “I believe I convinced her to give me a ‘blind chance’ with my confidence and belief in myself, and this is something that the IB encouraged a lot,” says Julienne. “You feel that you are an individual, you feel that your opinion and your voice deserve just as much attention as anyone else’s, and you are always supported and encouraged to strive for your goals, no matter how high they are.”
After graduating in 2008 she started her own independent production company, Savagestudio, with partner Jeremy Etienne. Based in Norway, whilst traveling throughout Asia, and more recently Africa, Savagestudio has produced more than six films and other visual art products, documenting the lives of those who would otherwise not have an opportunity to share their story.
She has produced, directed, filmed and edited a number of award winning films. CONSEQUENCES – Landmines & UXOs, was shot in Cambodia, detailing the experience of those affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance. The 57 minute film was selected for CamboFest 2011 and won an Award of Merit at the 2010 Accolade Awards in California. KUMBH MELA – Walking with the Nagas, brings to life the purification ceremony of the Naga Sadhu Hindu Holy men, drawing over 70 million people to the Ganges River. This film was a finalist in the 2009 European Spiritual Film Festival in Paris and won Best Cinematography at the Chashama Film Festival of New York in 2009.
Julienne’s current project, My Street – My Life, is an experimental feature film about street children living in a busy bazaar in the middle of New Delhi. The imagery is accompanied by a film score of striking original music combining traditional sounds with modern beats, written by Ken Barrett. “The street children act out their own lives,” says Julienne. “They have no acting experience, nor education. The main aim of this film project is for the children to understand that despite their very unfortunate situation of living on the streets, they do still have choices, and that the choices they make greatly affect their lives.”
This latest venture holds particular significance for Julienne, bringing her back to part of her original inspiration to become a documentary filmmaker. “The oldest street boy in this film I have known for over 11 years – he was one of the kids who refused to come to live in the house in New Delhi.
Its all so sad yet at the same time these kids always manage to bring a smile to my face. Having worked with these and many other street children over several years, this film is an attempt to empower older street children to improve their own lives.”
Julienne will be returning to New Delhi at the beginning of next year to hold a screening of the film for the street children. “I can’t wait to see their faces!” she says smiling.
For more information on Julienne and her films, visit Savagestudio’s website savagestudio.org and for further information about the film My Street – My Life, visit the film website savagestudio.org/mystreet_mylife/