‘For every shot of punting, there are two more of Sameera alone in her room’ Michaelmas by Samara Bhalotra Bowers

Michaelmas is a short film created by Land Economy student Sameera Bhalotra Bowers in her first term at Cambridge, which was featured in Lent term’s “Cambridge Shorts” Showcase. The film is a first-person, vlogger-esque deconstruction of the Cambridge experience, capturing the parts of Cambridge life that are not so commonly seen in the media. For every shot of punting, there are two more of Sameera alone in her room. In terms of audio, there’s no dialogue or narration – in fact, there’s barely any sound at all.

“There are no stylistic or narrative inspirations other than Sameera’s own experiences”

The film is loosely structured, which reflects the similar lack of structure in day-to-day university life. As Sameera said in an interview: “at school, you know what to do, at university, not so much.” The mixture of new financial, educational, and social independence can be liberating, but it can also be daunting. With freedoms come responsibilities, and you must self-motivate a lot of the time. Sameera had the same experience many Cambridge students have, moving from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in the metaphorical ocean of Cambridge. Struggles arise not just from getting to know new people, a new town, and new concepts, but also from the crafting of a new identity.

Sameera starred in, directed, and edited Michaelmas and wanted it to be an expression of her own thoughts; there are no stylistic or narrative inspirations other than her own experiences. Sameera allowed the camera to “capture the moment”. Though highly personal, this “moment” shown is relatable to many Cambridge students, as well as university students more broadly, and is equally, as Sameera points out, relevant to anyone undergoing the transition into adulthood. The imagery of the film is Cambridge specific (the punting, the architecture), but one of the reasons the film works so effectively is that we can project our own experiences onto this largely silent canvas, seeing similarities to our own lives in coping mechanisms like listening to music or journalling.

“Michaelmas term is a liminal stage between past and future, and there can be an uncertainty in knowing which direction you really want to go”

Maturing is a universal experience, and Sameera says that one of the difficulties in forming connections with others is that “people mature at different rates based on their own experience and personality.” She continues by explaining that one of the main reasons she thinks she struggled was because she held onto childhood more than others, and wanted to keep the magical bits. When we grow up, we often focus so much on what we have to gain that it is only in retrospect that we can focus on what we have lost. Sameera presents this realisation near the end of her film: interacting with a fake Christmas tree whose fairy-lights, much like her spirits, have lost their shine, at least in part due to her time at university.

This segment comes about two-thirds of the way through the film, when there is a shift from Cambridge to home. Sameera returns for Christmas, a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle of university. And yet home doesn’t always provide the comforts we expect. At home, there is more time to dwell on feelings, but even then, can we be certain about how we feel? It’s a depressing theme. Often, students can motivate themselves to get through long weeks of work with the promise of rest and respite. But when we struggle with our feelings, respite is not so easily gained. Sameera being the film’s sole subject could suggest that a solution to this struggle can be found through maintaining or establishing our relations with other people. In Michaelmas term, this is particularly difficult as moving away means drifting apart from friends still at home, and you cannot be sure that the friendships you have made are going to last. It’s a liminal stage between past and future, and there can be an uncertainty in knowing which direction you really want to go.

With all this said, it was interesting to talk to Sameera and see someone so focused, and excited, for the future. Sameera is working on another short film, and in the long term she is interested in making documentaries linked to areas of interest from her degree – such as climate change. Creative expression is an important part of her lifestyle, and we can see this film not as a cry for help, but as an expression of a particular daunting moment that has passed.


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Reflecting on Michaelmas, it is clear to see how creative expression can be used to explore darker themes, but that they can also be used as a stepping stone out of this dark limbo and into a brighter future. In this way, Michaelmas is a Michael-must-see, a relatable film that shows that, even when we are in our beds in the silence of night, we are not alone. People have been here before, people will be here again, and it is OK to feel like this.