Radio-TV-Film Alumnus Earns Student Academy Award for Filmmaking

Radio-TV-Film alumnus Soham Mehta, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater in 2000 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in radio-television-film in 2010 from The University of Texas at Austin, has been named a winner in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 38th annual Student Academy Awards competition.

His film "Fatakra" competed in the narrative film category. He will be honored June 11 in Los Angeles where he will learn whether his film earned a gold, silver or bronze placement and a cash grant of up to $5,000 (gold).

"Fatakra," which means "firecracker" in Gujarati, the language of the Indian state of Gujarat, tells the story of Naveen who left India to chase his dreams in America. Three years and a recession later, his wife and son join him, and sparks fly as a family reunites.

"While the film is not directly based on a true story, it reflects the experience of many immigrants when they first come to the United States," said Mehta. "A family member, often the husband, will leave his wife and children behind to initially pave the way. Sometimes, the family is reunited quickly, while other times it takes years. The story allowed me to pay tribute to my parents' experience while also exploring the emotions created by my own long-distance relationship."

The film was shot in and around Austin, including Giddings, Manor and Round Rock, almost entirely by a crew made of film students.

Born in India but brought up in Houston, Mehta became interested in theatre at an early age, acting in his first play when he was eight years old. He founded Shunya, a Houston-based theater troupe dedicated to providing a voice to the South Asian American experience. After leading the troupe for four years, he returned to school to pursue his master's degree in film production. He received the Warren Skaaren Fellowship.

His award-winning short films, including "Survivors," have played in festivals around the world. He also co-wrote the feature film "Where's the Party, Yaar?," starring Kal Penn. He continues to develop his own work while working as an editor for film and television.

Mehta is the fourth Department of Radio-Television-Film alumnus to win a Student Academy Award since 2002.