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Museum screens acclaimed film ‘The Valley,’ followed by conversation with director Kariat

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Kariat

In recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Los Altos History Museum has scheduled a screening of the film “The Valley” 7 p.m. May 7.

“The Valley” is an artistic exploration of teen suicide, the Asian-American immigrant experience and the high-achievement culture of Silicon Valley. Following the screening, a conversation will take place between Los Altos filmmaker Saila Kariat, the film’s writer, director and producer, and Suruchi Mohan, award-winning journalist and chairperson of the museum’s Oral History Program Committee.

Kariat’s feature directorial debut tells the story of Neal Kumar, a successful Indian-American entrepreneur whose idyllic life unravels after his daughter dies by suicide during her freshman year of college. As he desperately seeks answers, his family struggles to remain intact in a culture where human connection is difficult to maintain. “The Valley” was entered in more than 20 film festivals and won Best Feature Film in five festivals.

“The film was motivated by the confluence of personal events, the culture I witnessed and incidents of suicide which occurred in Silicon Valley,” Kariat said. “I wanted to focus particularly on Asian-American immigrant cultures, because the stigma of mental health issues, and the pressure to ‘save face’ is far higher amongst Asian Americans. The perception that you have to earn the space you take up can cause intense workaholism and stress.”

Kariat earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and worked as a product engineering manager at IBM. After the births of her two daughters, she started a residential construction company. She pursued her education in film in parallel, earning a degree from San Jose State University. Kariat has completed three other feature screenplays, “Gods and Demons,” “Love in the Time of Corona” and “I Was Never Awake.”

“At the heart of most suicides are mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression,” she said. “The success-oriented, high-pressure culture of Silicon Valley particularly triggers and worsens these problems.

COVID-19, online learning, isolation and increasing hate crimes against Asians have only exacerbated the issue.”

“The Valley,” according to Kariat, is aimed at reducing stigma, illuminating mental health problems and how they often go undetected, and bringing light to the complicated web of causes of suicide.

“It encourages parents and those who are suffering to realign their priorities and to offer and seek help,” she said.

The screening is free and open to all.

To access the Zoom link, register at losaltoshistory.org/events/film-screening-of-the-valley-with-director-saila-kariat.

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