Shalini Kantayya, a filmmaker and environmental activist who believes in making films that spark social change, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, in James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall in Anderson Student Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

Shalini Kantayya

Shalini Kantayya

Her talk, titled “Catching the Sun: The Clean Energy Future,” is sponsored by St. Thomas’ University Lectures Committee. The talk is free and open to the public.

“Catching the Sun” also is the title of her most recent documentary film. By telling the stories of unemployed workers enrolled in a solar-power jobs-training program in Richmond, California, the film explores one of the great questions of our time: Will America be able to build a clean-energy economy?

The film was awarded a 2012 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant and was an Official Selection of the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival.

A Fulbright Scholar who has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Southern California, Kantayya is based in Brooklyn. Born to Indian parents who immigrated to the United States, she was raised in Hartford, Connecticut. Kantayya received her bachelor’s in media studies and international human rights from Hampshire College and her master’s in film direction from City College of New York.

Kantayya was the only woman to finish in the top 10 out of 12,000 filmmakers in “On the Lot,” the Steven Spielberg television program in search of Hollywood’s next great director.

Founder of 7th Empire Media, Kantayya also created the science-fiction film, “A Drop of Life,” that received the award for the best documentary at the Asian American Film Festival, Best Short at Palm Beach International, a Chrystal Dior Nomination at Tokyo Shorts, and was broadcast on national television in India and the United States. Set in the near future, the film combines the stories of two women: a South Indian schoolteacher and a New York executive who wind up vying for clean drinking water.

Kantayya is a TED, Sundance and IATP Food and Society fellow. Her New York Times account of being assaulted was featured in this TED blog.

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