India: a history in moving pictures

  • April 27, 2016
India: a history in moving pictures

Peter Sutoris' book is the first scholarly work on the history of Indian documentary film.

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has written the first scholarly volume to be published on the history of Indian documentary film.

Peter Sutoris' book Visions of Development: Films Division of India and the Imagination of Progress, 1948-75 will be launched on 10th May in London and highlights continuities with and departures from colonial notions of development in modern India.

Sutoris [2015] pioneers a novel methodology for the study of development thought and its cinematic representations, analysing films made by the Films Division of India between 1948 and 1975. It is the first scholarly volume to be published on the history of Indian documentary film. He analyses and compares approximately 250 documentaries, many of which have never been discussed in the existing literature. Most are concerned with economic planning and industrialisation, large dams, family planning, schemes aimed at the integration of tribal peoples (Adivasis) into society and civic education.

Sutoris was born in Slovakia and is a scholar of development, documentary filmmaker and educator. He is the author of The Undiscovered Country, a film about education, development and environmental degradation in the Marshall Islands. He has lived and worked in South Asia, the Pacific, the Balkans and South Africa. He is doing a PhD in the Education Faculty of Cambridge University. His current research focuses on cross-cultural scalability of development interventions, with a focus on environmental education programmes.

Praise for his book, to be published in June, comes from a range of experts in the field of development. Jean Dréze, Honorary Professor, Delhi School of Economics, and chief collaborator with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, said it "sheds new light on the continuities and contrasts between economic policies in colonial and independent India".  

Srirupa Roy, Professor and Chair of State and Democracy, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen, stated: "This is the definitive book on the documentary films produced by the Films Division of India, and the pioneering role that this organization played in articulating and disseminating understandings of a “new India” in the years after independence. Painstakingly researched, bursting with original and often counter-intuitive insights about the fractured visions of development that emerged from an official state agency in the “high noon” of the developmental state, this pioneering book will be invaluable not just to students of Indian documentary film history, but those interested in wider questions of cultural politics; the aesthetics and politics of developmentalism; and the practices of postcolonial nationalism and state-formation."

Peter Sutoris

Peter Sutoris

  • Alumni
  • 2015
  • Slovakia
  • PhD Education
  • Clare Hall

Peter graduated with a degree in History from Dartmouth College in 2012. Originally from Slovakia, he has lived and worked in South Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and in the Balkans. He is the author of 'Visions of Development,' an upcoming monograph on the portrayal of themes of development in documentary films made by the Government of India, as well as 'The Undiscovered Country,' a documentary film on challenges to public education in the Marshall Islands. He has worked with Youth Bridge Global, an organization aiming to bridge ethnic divides in Bosnia and Herzegovina through theater, The Learning Center of Kathmandu, a grassroots NGO in Nepal, and PharmaSecure, a public health social enterprise in New Delhi. Much of Peter's research and professional work revolves around the link between education and international development, and he is excited to join Cambridge's Faculty of Education to pursue this interest further.

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