Cary filmmaker brings age-old Hindu character to modern-day therapy in her new short film.
Photography by Rob Underhill
They say not to wear too many hats in any one project—or in life—but that didn’t stop Cary-based first-time filmmaker Joya Joseph from writing, producing, directing and acting (!) in her new 10-minute short film, Blaming and Shaming.
An Indian-American with a flair for unpacking ancient Hindu legend, Joseph began the writing process for her short back in November 2021 with the idea of introducing a modern perspective on a very old story. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are two cornerstone texts of Hinduism, both written many centuries ago and both immensely long and complicated (think 10 times longer than the Iliad and Odyssey combined!). To understand the cultural context would be a feat all its own, and yet Joseph leaps a step further into reimagining the characters in the present day.
While the Ramayana follows closely the narrative of Prince Rama, Joseph was interested in the perspective of his wife, Sita, a victim of abduction. In the film—in which the major scenes took place at a cast members’ home in Cary and in the surrounding neighborhood—a modern-day Sita (played by Joseph) sits with her therapist, confusedly grappling with the trauma that left her lonely and ashamed, even upon her purported jubilant return home. While writing, Joseph wondered, “Even though she was kidnapped, Sita was never treated like a victim and a survivor in the story. What would have been her perspective?”
Joseph ventures that Blaming and Shaming could be controversial in her Hindu community, but with a quiet confidence she is also adamant that “flipping the script” of an age-old narrative is essential to uplifting the marginalized. Even for those unfamiliar with Hindu teachings, the film is deeply relatable, offering credence to an earnest and admonished woman.
Joseph insists that Indie filmmaking is completely accessible, and in her experience, it’s not so much about competition as it is collaboration. “We all want to create. We all want to make art. We all want to support each other…” she says. “I would say to anyone who is looking to make their own film: Do it!” She describes it as a fairly straightforward step-by-step process where things happen because “you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
She is excited by the vast reach of the Southeast film and television market, anchored by Atlanta, and hopes some of that business will continue to trickle, or better yet, flood into North Carolina. For now, she is encouraged that the Triangle has seen so much growth in the arts sector and hopes the upward trajectory will keep rolling (pun intended).
To showcase her film, Joseph plans to enter festivals, particularly those focused on women-led productions. Even as she’s working to circulate Blaming and Shaming, she is already eager to begin all over again with a new production. “It originally felt really daunting to sit down and try it, but now I want to do it again!” says Joseph.
And now that she’s accomplished making her first film, Joseph is certain that with her growing network of like-minded creatives and a better sense for budgeting and logistics, the second go-round will be that much easier. “It’s nerve-wracking to see your finished work,” says Joseph. “But I was relieved to see that the final product matched my original vision.”