About the Filmmaker

Photo by Preston Merchant

Indira S. Somani, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Media, Journalism and Film at Howard University, Washington, D.C.  Somani studies effects of satellite television on the Indian diaspora, specifically the generation of the Asian Indians who migrated to the U.S. between 1960 and 1972, and their media habits.  She has been published in the Howard Journal of Communication, Journal of Communication Inquiry, International Communication Research Journal, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, and the Asian Journal of Communication.  For the fall of 2011, Somani was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship to study the Western influence of Indian programming in India.  Somani is also an award winning independent producer and director of documentaries.  Her most recent production, Life on the Ganges (2016), is a 10- minute documentary short about the life of one boatman, who rows tourists along the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, particularly around Dev Diwali when people from all over India travel there to bathe in the Ganges to wash away their sins and purify their souls.  The film has been screening in film festivals all over the U.S.  Another production, Crossing Lines (2007), is a personal essay 30-minute documentary about her struggle to stay connected to India after the loss of her father, and about how Asian Indians maintain and preserve their cultural identity.   The film has won numerous awards, screened in film festivals nationally and internationally, screened on PBS affiliates, and has also been distributed to more than 100 university libraries in the U.S. through New Day films.  Somani brings 10 years of broadcast journalism experience as a television news producer to the classroom, most notably with CNBC and WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C.  She has been a leader of the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), where she has also won several “Outstanding” awards on her coverage of South Asians in North America.  Prior to joining Howard University, Somani was an Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA) and American University’s School of Communication (Washington, DC).  Somani earned her Master’s in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University in 1993, and her Ph.D. from the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park in May 2008.