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25 February 2009

Oscar winner has Salem roots

Documentarian wins for film of girl with cleft lip

Download a PDF of this storyBY BARBARA CURTIN • STATESMAN JOURNAL

February 24, 2009
Just being one of four nominated for an Oscar in the short-documentary category was a huge honor, said former Salem resident Megan Mylan — but "it sure was fun to win."
A day after accepting the Academy Award and operating on three hours of sleep, Mylan spoke about her win with the Statesman Journal from Los Angeles as she was about to catch a red-eye flight to New York City, where she now lives.

Her film, "Smile Pinki," tells the story of an Indian girl whose life changes dramatically after she undergoes surgery for a cleft lip. The child, now 8, attended the Oscar ceremony with Mylan, as did surgeon Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh and Mylan's family — father Jack, mother Irene, and sister Julie Mylan.

"I felt so clearly that it was not just a reward for my filmmaking but an acknowledgement of their humanity, their generosity and what Dr. Subodh did," said Mylan, 39. "It was all of us walking up there; I was representing everyone."

Mid-Valley residents will have a chance to get to know Mylan and her work better in late April. She expects to appear at the Salem Film Festival, she confirmed for the first time Monday.

"That's my plan, although life as a documentarian is never 100 percent certain," Mylan said.

Her mother, Irene Mylan, said post-Oscar parties had kept the family up late.

"We're too old to stay out until 4 in morning," she said a little ruefully earlier in the day.

Irene Mylan said she had just come from a photo shoot with Megan and Pinki, 8.

"(Pinki) only speaks Hindi, but we found a generous couple who translated for us," Irene Mylan said. "She's very poised for an 8-year-old and has an engaging personality."

Irene Mylan said her daughter accepted the Oscar while wearing a red dress of four-ply silk that had been designed by Megan's grandmother, Julia Principe Mylan, in the 1930s.

The grandmother died at 95 a few months ago and didn't get to see her granddaughter's moment of glory, Irene said.

Although the Mylan family moved to Texas after Megan finished elementary school, Jack and Irene Mylan kept their home in southeast Salem, and they return to visit each summer.

Jack was a longtime law professor at Willamette University until moving on to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He since has retired.

Irene still owns a consignment clothing business in Dallas.

Loretta Miles, the owner of Salem Cinema, had booked "Smile Pinki" for the Salem Film Festival, which will take place April 17-26. She was delighted to hear that Megan Mylan would be able to fit an appearance into her schedule.

Megan Mylan was a featured speaker at the 2006 Salem Film Festival, when she showed her film "Lost Boys of Sudan" and spoke before a crowded house at the Historic Elsinore Theatre.

"Megan has a very unique style of filmmaking, which comes across as passionate and compassionate," Miles said.

bcurtin@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6699

Oscar winner has Salem roots

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