Dr. Girish Shambu lives a double life.
As a Professor of Management at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, he spends his days teaching business students about sustainability in supply chains. However, once class is out of session, he devotes his free time to another lifelong passion — film and cinema studies.
His dedication to the field over the past decades has led to his rise as a leading voice in the world of cinema and media studies. For nearly two decades, he has cultivated an online film community through his eponymous blog. He’s been the editor of Film Quarterly’s online column Quorum since 2018, and his book, The New Cinephilia, explores the concept of cinephilia through the 21st-century shift to digital media.
What struck me the most about Dr. Shambu throughout our discussion was his excitement and passion for all that he studies. As we chatted on Zoom, an overflowing bookshelf behind him, his face lit up as he spoke about his work in film scholarship.
Originally from India, Dr. Shambu says that he grew up watching and reading about movies, but never had the opportunity to seriously pursue the field.
“Growing up in India, parents — or at least my parents — want you to become a doctor or an engineer so you can get a job,” he said. “And so I became a chemical engineer, but my love of movies was always there. I pursued that passion on my own.”
It wasn’t until Dr. Shambu immigrated to America that he began to get more involved in the film community. With the advent of the Internet in the mid-1990s, the opportunity came along for “normal people to be able to write about films and talk about films”, as he put it. “Most of the people who wrote about film before the Internet were straight, white men. The Internet opened the gate for other marginalized voices to speak.”
He began to engage in film discourse, attend festivals and write reviews, and eventually start his blog, all while working towards his Ph.D. in Manufacturing Management and focusing his research on sustainability in supply chains.
That’s not to say that there’s no intersectionality between his two areas of study. When asked for his thoughts about the transition to virtual cinema, he said he’s in strong favor of some aspects of film festivals permanently staying online, citing the irresponsibility of global travel.
“It’s not just because of the pandemic, but because of climate change. Airplanes burn so much fossil fuel that we need to completely start thinking rethinking our notion of travel,” said Dr. Shambu. “We have to find other ways to communicate with each other, to be with each other without flying.”
When I pointed out the overlap between his call for responsible climate action within the film industry and his work studying sustainability in business, Dr. Shambu brought up the idea of the “triple bottom line” that exists in all industries and organizations. He says that businesses need to increasingly be thinking about their social and environmental impacts and responsibilities as opposed to just their economic bottom line.
This year at FLEFF, Dr. Shambu will be moderating discussions, including one on Fernanda Valadez’s Identifyng Features (2020), as well as holding a Q&A session with a filmmaker. This will be his second year working with FLEFF, after moderating discussions in 2019.
“What makes me really happy to come back to FLEFF,” Dr. Shambu says, “Is that it’s a very unique festival. It's about bringing a community of people together, all of whom have various perspectives on film and various expertise on film, and not only having them watch films, but also talk about films and talk about the industry and talk about film culture. It’s the festival of all the festivals I’ve been to that's most committed to discourse around film, not just watching films."