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Suraj Israni Center for Cinematic Arts Established in Memory of Promising Film Student

A close-up rendering of the new Suraj Israni Center for Cinematic Arts, to be located in the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood.Israni family commits $6 million to help create new center in the Division of Arts and Humanities

An aspiring filmmaker, Suraj Israni understood the way film has the capacity to inspire social change. While attending school in New York City, he would encourage his family at home in San Diego to watch independent movies and documentaries, sharing with them the films that moved him the most.

After his passing, his family is ensuring their son’s legacy will be carried forward with an endowment commitment that will establish a new center at the University of California San Diego committed to promoting, advancing and advocating for film, filmmaking and the cinematic arts. The gift contributes to The Campaign for UC San Diego, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign concluding June 30, 2022.

In recognition of the generous gift from Deepak and Varsha Israni, UC San Diego is proud to establish the Suraj Israni Center for Cinematic Arts within the Division of Arts and Humanities, the university’s hub for creative and academic advancement in culture, music, theater, film and the arts.

Suraj Israni’s passion for film writing and directing led him to enroll in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and he became dedicated to following and attending multiple film festivals, including Sundance. He developed an eclectic taste and deep knowledge of both film and music, and was always learning new skills: he excelled in stand-up comedy, composing music, playing multiple instruments and writing scripts.

The Isranis said their son was extremely passionate about all aspects of filmmaking, and through his passion they developed an appreciation for and growing understanding of the impact and potential of film. In particular, he introduced them to the great benefit festivals have for young filmmakers and professionals, and the Isranis want to provide opportunity and access to students who share similar interests as Suraj.

“Suraj showed us that while being great story-telling medium, films educate and inspire change in individuals and society at large,” they said. “He shared movies with us that impacted social change, and reflected his own compassionate beliefs.”

Film festivals and symposiums, student scholarships and apprenticeships, and other student-centered activities — including film competitions and awards, and even travel in support of academic work — will all be developed under the new center. The central location for nearly all public programming will be in the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood.

The Israni’s commitment also establishes the Suraj Israni Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Cinematic Arts to support the teaching, research and service of a distinguished faculty member focused on cinematic arts in the Division of Arts and Humanities.

“As the cinematic arts in the UC San Diego Division of Arts and Humanities moves into a new phase of preparing the next generation of creative leaders, the Israni name will become deeply familiar to students and recognized among the global cinematic arts community,” said Cristina Della Coletta, dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities and an Italian film scholar. “We are grateful to Deepak and Varsha Israni for their commitment to supporting our current and future students, all with the drive to understand and create film for the common good.”

Read the full release on the UC San Diego News Center >>


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