The Occidental College Media Arts and Culture (MAC) Department announced March 7 that professor Aleem Hossain will be joining the college in the fall as the department’s new tenure-track Assistant Professor of Media Production and Digital Storytelling. Hossain, who lives in Eagle Rock, is a writer and director with extensive experience in visual effects and virtual reality (VR) filmmaking.
Through his past work, Hossain has engaged with issues of diversity and inclusion through digital storytelling. His most recent project is a feature-length film called “After We Leave,” a sci-fi drama that explores themes of immigration and was inspired by the experiences of Hossain’s relatives. Hossain is also currently working on a virtual reality project titled “You are Forever, You are Everyone” that discusses mixed-race identity in the United States. Hossain said that he hopes to continue exploring diversity in storytelling during his time at Occidental.
“I come to film with this idea that movies, VR and all visual art [are] this super powerful form of communication,” Hossain said. “If we’re going to be speaking to the entire world like that, it’s kind of insane how few people get to do that and how similar those people are.”
According to Hossain, the voices of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community are not often represented in mainstream film media, especially larger-budget Hollywood movies. However, Hossain also said that he believes filmmaking can be an accessible medium where diverse voices can reach a broad audience.
“One of my missions as a teacher and a filmmaker is to say ‘No, this is for all of us. It should be all our voices,’” Hossain said. “I think we should all do everything.”
Hossain specializes in virtual reality and recently worked with Google to create an educational anti-bullying virtual reality program for middle schoolers called “No Easy Answers.” Hossain, who will be teaching classes using virtual reality and 360-degree video, said that he feels virtual reality can be an innovative and groundbreaking storytelling platform.
“[Virtual reality] is a new art form and can force existing, established artists to ask fresh questions,” Hossain said. “I think it’s an awesome opportunity for students here. We can be part of writing the language of VR.”
According to Hossain, the immersive nature of virtual reality could allow it to be used as a more powerful means of communication that can deliver an artist’s message in new, thoughtful ways. Hossain also said that studying virtual reality in an academic setting can be rewarding because, due to it being an emergent media form, there are few defined rules and established limitations for the medium. This provides students with an opportunity to push boundaries and explore new pathways and breakthroughs in storytelling.
Raphael Gonzales (junior), a MAC major, praised Hossain’s experience in visual effects and his thoughts on accessible filmmaking.
“He’s trying to break down the gap between sci-fi, high budget films and making it affordable for people who don’t have that experience or resources,” Gonzales said. “Film is an inherently sort of classist medium. You need to have money to make it. He’s looking for a way to make these marketable projects that anyone can do from any background.”
Gonzales also said that he was happy the MAC department is growing and expanding into virtual reality. According to Gonzales, it is important for a college in Los Angeles to have a strong film program and the addition of Professor Hossain gives students an additional resource with hands-on expertise in after-effects and motion graphics.
Hossain said that he looks forward to joining Occidental as a faculty member because of the way a liberal arts college encourages working across disciplines.
Rachel Goldfinger (senior), also a MAC major, was impressed by Hossain’s teaching demonstration in February and the future applications of virtual reality media production at Occidental.
“[Hossain] talked about understanding how to frame VR and the visual narrative of it can transfer across disciplines,” Goldfinger said. “We could have DWA students and MAC students making stuff together.”
Professor Broderick Fox, chair of the MAC Department and the search committee that selected Professor Hossain, said that he and the MAC faculty are thrilled that Hossain is joining the department. Fox also said that the department was looking for not just another media production specialist, but someone with an accomplished background in fiction-based work and storytelling that engaged in cultural narratives.
According to Fox, he is hopeful for the future growth of the MAC Department with the addition of Professor Hossain. He and Hossain have already started to discuss collaborations across other departments at the college, such as computer science, theater, Writing and Rhetoric and music.
“It’s just so exciting to have another mind and collaborator who I know is going to help us take things to the next level,” Fox said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for him to become a central member of the Occidental community.”