In-progress Unbroken Glass takes an organic approach to outreach

You never knew her normal self. If you see broken glass… you never think about the beautiful thing it was before. It’s just broken glass.

Dinesh Sabu is currently in post-production of his first feature length documentary, Unbroken Glass. As he puts the film together, he has also been piecing together plans for how it will make an impact, including events like a preview of clips and a discussion of the film this Sunday, April 13th at 7:15pm, at the Gene Siskel Film Center (Get tickets).

Dinesh lost both his parents at a young age, and Unbroken Glass is a personal documentary in which Sabu takes us on his journey to learn who they were, and in doing so shines a light on the experience of mental illness among the South Asian diaspora community.

Clips from Unbroken Glass were part of Kartemquin’s first Spring Showcase in 2012, from which an outreach campaign began very organically as he sent a number of emails inviting leaders from Chicago’s South Asian community to attend and perhaps collaborate on the film's audience engagement. One of the several who attended was Dr. Rooshey Hasnain, who studies mental illness among Asian-Americans at the University of Illinois at Chicago. They developed a rapport that has since led to her becoming a member of the Unbroken Glass advisory board and Sabu screening clips of the film in her classes. Even though the film is incomplete and in need of finishing funds, Dinesh later began receiving requests to screen the film from professors across the country. With the film still a work-in-progress, he offered to share clips, and has since shown various clips and Skyped into classrooms for discussion. He's also organized social events around the film that serve as part-fundraisers, and part-awareness building.

His outreach thus far has shown Sabu that mental illness among South Asians is indeed a topic that needs to addressed. His message has already moved beyond its South Asian-American locus. Several people from other Asian communities have expressed an interest in his film. As mental illness touches all ethnicities and communities with varying levels of stigma, Unbroken Glass tells a very human story that Dinesh feels will undoubtedly speak to a broad audience.

"There’s a line in the fundraising demo that kind of struck us," said Sabu of the film's title. "It’s my aunt, and she’s talking about who my mother was before she was ill. She said something to the effect of, 'You never knew her normal self. If you see broken glass… you never think about the beautiful thing it was before. It’s just broken glass.' So that metaphor really captured what we’re trying to do with the doc; that is piece together these shards of a story, these shards of a life, these shard of a person: piecing them together and trying to see the complete picture beyond that."

You can see new clips from the film and discuss Unbroken Glass with Dinesh Sabu on Sunday, Apr 13th at 7:15pm, as part of the Asian American Showcase at the Siskel Center in April. In June the Eye on India Festival at University of Chicago also includes a work-in-progress screening which Dinesh will attend.

You can donate to Unbroken Glass here, and follow the film on Facebook and Twitter.