Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai

eswaran@msu.edu
517-348-6187

C643 Wells Hall

FacultyEnglishFilm Studies

Associate Professor
Film and Media Studies; Film and Media Production; Creative Writing; Race and Ethnic Studies; Global and Diasporic Studies

ORCID: 0000-0003-0808-5275

Curriculum Vitae

Biography

Swarnavel Eswaran is an associate professor in the Department of English and the School of Journalism at Michigan State University. He is a graduate of the preeminent Film and Television Institute of India and the prestigious film studies program at the University of Iowa. His significant documentaries include Nagapattinam: Waves from the Deep (2018), Hmong Memories at the Crossroad (2016), Migrations of Islam (2014), and Unfinished Journey: A City in Transition (2012), among others. His research focuses on Tamil cinema’s history, aesthetics, politics, and the contemporary digital era and the concomitant changes in the consumption and production of films. His books include Tamil Cinema Reviews: 1931-1960 (Nizhal Publications, 2020) and Madras Studios: Narrative, Genre, and Ideology in Tamil Cinema (Sage Publications, 2015). His fiction feature Kattumaram (Catamaran, 2019), a collaboration with Tamil’s cinema’s leading director Mysskin, is currently on the film festival circuit

Artist Statement

I believe in the possibilities of cinema to entertain and educate people, enabling them to come together and challenge the status quo for a better future. While the interventions through art may not be palpable in their immediate effects but we are witness to its centrality in the significant changes in our society regarding the discourses surrounding race, gender, identity, sexual orientation, equity, migration, displacement, and environment, ecology, Anthropocene, and digitality. My documentaries, which are collaborations with my students at MSU, engage with these topics to document lived reality and interact with people around us to understand the complexity of life that can lead to peaceful coexistence through the acceptance of diversity and appreciation of difference. It is driven by the faith in cinema to inform and heal us.

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Projects


Nagapattinam: Waves from the Deep, 2016, (Director, Editor and Producer), 71 min.

My decade long work- documentary on Tsunami relief and rehabilitation (2004-2014) at Nagapattinam, the coastal town in South India. 20 May 2016. Chicago Tamil Forum. Foster Hall, University of Chicago.

Hmong Memory at the Crossroads, 2015, (Co-director with Safoi Babana-Hampton and Cyril Payen, and Associate Producer), 97 min.

Hmong Memory at the Crossroads, 2015, (Co-director with Safoi Babana-Hampton and Cyril Payen, and Associate Producer), 97 min.
Winner Best Documentary Film (Feature Category). Universe Multicultural Film Festival. Los Angeles. April 2017.
Official Selection. Indie Fest USA (IFF), California, 16 Oct. 2015. Nominated for the Best Documentary Feature

Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration (The Museum of the History of Immigration) at the Palais de la Porte Dorée, Paris, France, 17 March 2016, Screening and Round-table discussion

Migrations of Islam, 2013, (Director, Videographer, and Editor), 56 min. Official Selection. Ethnogra Film Festival, Paris, 2015

Official Selection. World Documentary Film and Television Conference (Falmouth, UK, 2014).
Screened at the SOAS (The School of Oriental and African Studies) Conference,   London, 2014.                    
Official Selection. Queens International Film Festival (New York, 2013).

Book Trailer, 2012,(Director, Trailer for Marcia Aldrich’s Award-Winning Novel, Companion to an Untold Story, Univ. of Georgia Press, 2012), 5 min.

Unfinished Journey: A City in Transition, 2011, (Co-director, Co-producer, and Co-Editor with Mark Huelsbeck), 26 min.

Officially Selected by the African World Documentary Film Festival (2014)
Screened at IRepresent International Documentary Film Festival in Lagos, Nigeria.
Screened at the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, Philadelphia.
Screened at Missouri History Museum, University of Missouri at St. Louis.
Official Selection. St. Augustine Film Festival—a part of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (2012).
Official Selection. San Diego Black Film Festival (2012).

Kattumaram (Catamaran), 2019 (Writer, Director, and Producer), Fiction, 73 min.

Awards and Honors

Courses

DS 103: Media History

FLM 260: Introduction to Digital Cinema and Media

ENG/FLM 334: Screenwriting

ENG 332: Historical Approaches to Film

Documentary Capstone

MI/ENG/JRA/WRA 311: Introduction to Documentary History, Theory, and Production

TC/ENG/JRN/WRA 411 and 491: Documentary Design

ENG 430: Seminar in Film and Media Theory: Authorship and Genre

FLM 336: Aesthetics of Film Editing

ENG 333: Gangster Film

ENG 333: Popular Hindi Cinema

ENG 360: Postcolonial Cinema and the Diaspora

TC/ENG 491: Short Film: Writing and Directing

FLM 450: Ethnic Film: Indian/Hindi Cinema

FLM 301: Film History

Publications

Madras Studios: Narrative, Genre, and Ideology in Tamil Cinema (Sage   Publications, January 2015

Cinema: Sattagamum Saalaramum /Cinema: Frame and Window. Chennai: Nizhal Pathippagam, Dec. 2012. This book is an anthology of scholarly essays in Tamil on documentaries and experimental films.

“Cinematography and the Poetics of 1950s Tamil Cinema: Maruthi Rao and Visual Style.” Screen (2017) 58 (1), pp. 73-81. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjx009

“Secularism and Its Discontents: Moor’s Last Sigh and Riot.” ART (Analyses, Rereadings and Theories), 4 (1), 2016, pp. 1-15.

“Tamil Documentary Naali: Low-End Technology and Subaltern History.” TransMissions: The Journal of Film and Media Studies, 1 (1) , 2016, pp. 5-20.

“Mysskin’s Pisaasu (2014): Ghost as the goddess.” Studies in South Asian Film & Media, 7  (1+2), 2016, pp. 89–101.

“The Texture of Interiority: Voiceover and Visuals,” Studies in Visual Arts and Communication, 2 (1), (2015) http://journalonarts.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/SVACij-Vol2_No1_2015-Pillai-Texture-Voiceover-and-Visuals.pdf

Mirugavidusagam: Theater of the Body, Ritual and Land,” Studies in South Asian Film and Media (Intellect), 5 (1), Spring (April) 2013 (The Body: Indian theatre Special Issue), pp. 37-46.

“1970s Tamil Cinema and the Post-Classical Turn,” South Asian Popular Culture (Routledge), 10 (1), April 2012, pp. 77-89. Reprinted asThe 1970s Tamil Cinema and the Post-Classical Turn,” In Priya Joshi and Rajinder Dudrah eds. The 1970s and its Legacies in India’s Cinemas. Eds. England, UK: Routledge 2014, pp. 76-88.

Tamil Cinema Vimarsanangal: 1931-1960/Tamil Cinema Reviews: 1931-1960 Coeditor. (Chennai: Nizhal, 2020).

Manudamum Mandiyiduthalum: Marivarum Cinemavum Maaratha Agathedalum/ Humanity and Reparation: Changing Cinema and Its Unchanging Yearnings (Chennai: Parisal Pathippagam, 2019). This book is an anthology of scholarly essays in Tamil on fiction and nonfiction films regarding the transition from the celluloid to the digital.

Madras Studios: Narrative, Genre, and Ideology in Tamil Cinema (Sage Publications, 2015).

Cinema: Sattagamum Saalaramum / Cinema: Frame/Window (Chennai: Nizhal Pathippagam, Dec. 2012). This book is an anthology of scholarly essays in Tamil on documentaries and experimental films.

“Death Rides a Horse and Its Influence on Indian Cinema.” FemAsia: Asian Women’s Journal. 25 Oct. 2020. http://femasiamagazine.com/death-rides-a-horse-and-its-influence- on-indian-cinema/

“Contemporary Tamil cinema and its departure from the mainstream: Manusangada/Cry Humanity and To Let.” Jump Cut (2019) 59 (Fall Issue), https://www.ejumpcut.org/currentissue/Eswaren-Tamil/text.html

“Periyar as Biopic: Star Persona, Historical Events, and Politics.” Biography (Winter 2017) 40 (1), pp. 93-115.

“Cinematography and the Poetics of 1950s Tamil Cinema: Maruthi Rao and Visual Style.” Screen (2017) 58 (1), pp. 73-81. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjx009

“Secularism and Its Discontents: Moor’s Last Sigh and Riot.” ART (Analyses, Rereadings and Theories), 4 (1), 2016, pp. 1-15.

“Mysskin’s Pisaasu (2014): Ghost as the Goddess.” Studies in South Asian Film & Media, 7 (1+2), 2016, pp. 89–101.

“1970s Tamil Cinema and the Post-Classical Turn,” South Asian Popular Culture (Routledge), 10 (1), April 2012, pp. 77-89. Reprinted as“The 1970s Tamil Cinema andthe Post-Classical Turn,” In Priya Joshi and Rajinder Dudrah eds. The 1970s and its Legacies in India’s Cinemas. Eds. England, UK: Routledge 2014, pp. 76-88.

Exhibitions

University News

Professor’s Film Screened at Several Festivals Around the World
Published July 2, 2019 in College of Arts & Letters
a man with short hair wearing glasses
Associate Professor of English Swarnavel Eswaran has found national and international success for his work as both writer and director of the groundbreaking…Read now »
Documenting Lives Through Film
Published January 8, 2018 in College of Arts & Letters
man standing with camera tripod on bridge on msu campus
BEHIND THE WILL is a video series that gives viewers an inside look into what drives our faculty’s research, teaching, and creativity at Michigan State University’s College of Arts &…Read now »
2017 Faculty Awards
Published February 7, 2017 in College of Arts & Letters
photo of the beaumont tower with winter scenery and snow
Michigan State University faculty members will be honored for their outstanding contributions to education and research at the annual MSU Awards Convocation on Feb. 7. Five College of Arts…Read now »
MSU Receives $160,000 in HWW Global Midwest Grants
Published February 10, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
buildfing surrounded ith trees with yellow and green leaves
Three project teams that include MSU College of Arts & Letters faculty and students were among the 10 teams receiving funding in the 2016 Humanities Without Walls (HWW) Global Midwest Grants. In…Read now »
‘Hmong Memory at the Crossroads’ Film Premiere
Published January 13, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
graphic for film premiere
The College of Arts & Letters Department of Romance and Classical Studies will premiere the documentary film Hmong Memory at the Crossroads at 4:00 pm, Monday, February 15, 2016 in the…Read now »