: Déjà Bernhardt
: BFA, Media & Communications
: Filmmaker and Teacher
: Regional Student Academy Award for “The Midwife’s Husband
: Student Academy Award, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2013
: Skwatta Camp Productions
: midwife and humanitarian Robin Lim, CNN's ‘Hero of the Year’
As a young documentary filmmaker looking to get started in a very competitive industry, Déjà Bernhardt had a distinct advantage: she was living in
a documentary filmmaker’s dream — a non-stop heart-rending adventure that swirled perpetually around her world-famous mother, Robin Lim
, a midwife with a larger-than-life personality whose humanitarian work had won her the Alexander Langer Award for Peace in 2006 and CNN Hero of the Year in 2011.
Déjà hardly had to travel farther than the dinner table for ideas and inspiration for her early work. “There was no shortage of things to film when you’re following my mother around,” says Déjà, now 37.
Déjà’s filmmaking journey started in 2000, when she took a video editing class in MUM’s Media & Communications department. “I was addicted after that,” she says.
Inspired by MUM’s international students from Mozambique, Déjà traveled to Africa to shoot footage for "Chimio Means Little Heart," her first student documentary. The film was about the transmission of AIDS through breastfeeding and the stigma that surrounds it. Next, she filmed "Ubuntu" in South Africa and after that came her feature-length documentary "Guerrilla Midwife," which follows Déjà's mom, Ibu Robin ("Mother Robin"), on a mesmerizing journey as she helps Indonesian women amid the wreckage of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Several of Déjà's films have been influential in promoting humanitarian efforts, and continue to play in festivals worldwide.
Déjà credits her experience at MUM as being formative to her creative vision. “MUM made me the kind of filmmaker who seeks out the deeper layers in a story, who looks for how things connect together — which can be hard to do as a filmmaker; it's much easier to make a film with only one storyline and one thread. It’s in my nature to go as deep as I can.”
Creating a TV Pilot
In 2103 Déjà’s work shifted from documentaries to narrative storytelling with filming of the TV pilot, “Returning to Ananda,” (which she wrote, directed, and stars in) , shot in Fairfield, Iowa, home of MUM (photo, left).
“It’s about a woman who returns home to a small town and realizes that everything she thought was missing from her life is actually right there," says Déjà. "It’s an edgy, dark comedy. Anyone who’s ever been touched by Eastern philosophy — especially people who are seekers — will be able to relate to it.”
After the pilot episode wraps, Déjà plans to pitch it to cable networks including HBO and Showtime. She has written several follow-on episodes which she hopes will be the start of season one.
Winning a Regional Student Academy Award
Déjà’s 2013 narrative drama short, “The Midwife’s Husband,” (watch the trailer
) won a Regional Student Academy Award and was subsequently nominated for the National Student Academy Award, for which Deja traveled to Hollywood to participate in the award ceremonies. (Student Academy Awards® nominees have gone on to win more than 50 Oscar® nominations and Oscars.)
Born in Santa Barbara, California, Déjà Bernhardt is the oldest of eight siblings. Her parents moved the family to Maui, Hawaii when she was four, and then to Indonesia when she was 15.
Currently Déjà lives in Austin, Texas, with her daughter, Zoe, 15, and is pursuing a Master in Fine Arts in Film Production at the University of Texas with the goal of teaching filmmaking. Most of her family, including her mother Robin, maintain houses in Bali.
MUM and its teachings continue to be an influential force in Déjà's life and work.
“Maharishi’s knowledge is part of my heart, it’s ingrained in everything I write, everything I do,” Déjà says. “I’m so lucky to have had an education at MUM and to have my TM practice. My experience at MUM was so profound.”
Déjà's next film: An indie feature called Half Angel, set in Hawaii, which she hopes to shoot within the next 18 months.
Learn about degrees in Media & Communications at MUM