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Meet Luke Zvara

Luke Zvara is the perfect embodiment of an art student. He has it all: the hipster look, the love for film, the wanderlust, the deep and meaningful insight towards life and, how can I forget, the perfect Instagram aesthetic.  But Luke is more than that; he’s the friend you go to for advice, the guy you’ve been harboring a tiny crush on, the devout Christian you run into at Church, the geek rambling about whales at 2 am.

The Senior Film Production Major was born in Arlington, Texas, where he lived for three months before his parents moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, as a part of their job as missionaries. Five months later, his family moved to Tashkent in Uzbekistan, where he spent most of his childhood, communicating with the local kids in sign language to play tag.

His family visited America every summer to see his grandparents, and one summer eleven years later, they found out that they couldn’t go back to Uzbekistan due to visa issues.

“A lot of my friends had been kicked out of the country, they didn’t like Americans being there—Missionaries being there, they didn’t like that,” says Luke.

He was homeschooled in America for a few months before they moved to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, a country right next to Uzbekistan. “[The two countries are] similar in a lot of ways, but also really different in a lot of other ways. Uzbeks and Kyrgyz don’t really like each other,” Luke told me. He added that Kyrgyz are a little bit nomadic in nature, whereas Uzbeks are more traditional. He spent middle school and freshman year of high school in Kyrgyzstan, skiing, snowboarding and hiking on the many mountains in the country. Following his sister’s footsteps, Luke decided to go to boarding school in Khandel, Germany. He lived there for three years, in a dorm he shared with 23 other guys, who were Missionaries’ kids from all the over world.

“At one point, my sister was in college in America, my parents in Kyrgyzstan and I was in Germany so we were in three different continents at the same time,” Luke says. After graduation, he moved to Boston and has been here ever since.

“I’m definitely grateful for all the different experiences I’ve had and it’s given me a passion, appreciation and love for cultures and history…I think the transition moving back here was learning to appreciate America. Lots of times Americans tend to view our own culture as ground zero, the default sort of, and everything else is exotic, but what I have learned living in other places and then moving here is growing to appreciate my culture.”

He believes very few things make him feel uncomfortable. Situations that we may perceive as awkward or weird are nothing to Luke, who has moved around to so many places and has seen different cultures, traditions and communities. “I’ve seen a lot of weird things where on the spot I had to be like, ‘Oh this is what we are doing!’ because of which I don’t think there’s a whole lot that’ll surprise me. Like ‘Oh my gosh what the hell is going on?’ is more of ‘Oh this is interesting’. Changed my perspective, you know? Made me be accepting to whatever is coming my way.”  

Moving back to America really helped him appreciate his experiences more, and he wants to soak everything when he travels now, as he doesn’t get to do it as much as he did when he was younger.

Luke says his faith in God helps him see the beauty of different cultures. “I kind of see each culture as a different embodiment or a different aspect of God’s personality. Obviously, there’s lots of faults in each culture, like each culture has its weird thing or like vices that they are more prone to, but there is also beauty in each one.” He says that faith is the most important thing to him in his life. It’s a part of every single thing that he does. “Sometimes I forget about my faith and live selfishly,” he confesses. Faith has always been a huge part in his life, with his parents being missionaries and him growing up in missionary communities. “People think missionaries and they think Colonialism—just a lot of negative connotations that come along with that, but that pains me to hear because the communities I grew up in were some of the most loving, and [had the most] selfless people that I had seen.”

He has had a journey with Christianity, he says, beginning with his parents introducing the gospel to him and him taking his steps growing up. In boarding school, he had to figure out if Christianity was just something that his parents were into, or if he genuinely believed in it. Coming to Emerson, which is the complete opposite of what he is used to, was a bigger step in that process of finding his faith, he says. “[Freshman year] was the first time that I got up on a Sunday to go to church by myself, not because my parents are driving me there but because it’s my faith, it’s my own, my relationship with God.” His faith also affects his relationship with others, as he uses the Bible as a guide about how to treat other people, and act in his friendships. “It’s totally and radically different than how I would’ve lived if I didn’t have Jesus in my life. I’ve had conversations with my friends about this, and I think I would let life just kind of pass on by, and be very selfish.”

As community is very important in Christianity, it has influenced Luke’s friendships a lot. It was what brought his dorm together in Germany, and he now has a tattoo of the name of their dorm, H.B.R, on his hand. He’s learned to be vulnerable, to be a great listener and be loving through his journey in Christianity. Luke is currently the co-president of Emerson Christian Fellowship, an organization at Emerson for protestants.

His faith also influenced him intellectually and creatively, as Christianity has a tradition of philosophy, and literature, and that has pushed him into the world of reading, and he’s a huge fan of C.S Lewis. “I just enjoy the philosophical richness of Christianity,” he says. About C.S. Lewis, he says that he read and/or listened to an audiobook of all the books from the Narnia series, but it was as he started getting older that Luke went into Lewis’ other works, and was exposed to Lewis’ theological and philosophical ideas. Lewis is a linguist and a writer who studied Medieval literature and Latin, which was his speciality at Oxford. Luke has many other facts about C.S. Lewis, that he says he gathers from an app that sends him one quote by, and one fact about Lewis every day. Lewis was a staunch atheist who became a devout Christian because of J.R.R. Tolkien, who Luke is also a huge fan of. Lewis has been a huge part of Luke’s understanding of Christianity and his faith, because Lewis takes his understanding of the religion, from his experiences and puts it in words that make things seem very real to Luke. Lewis’ work is a beautiful rendering of his thoughts and faith.

“It’s almost like he can make theology imaginative. Reason is the organ of truth whereas imagination is the organ of meaning.” Lewis is a really special author to Luke because he feels that they would be similar in a lot of ways. Different in terms of personality, but Luke thinks that they find the same things impactful, and they share similar tastes in what is beautiful. “It’s weird to talk about him like this,” he says, chuckling. “But that is how close I feel to him. A part of me really looks forward to when, you know, I see the pearly gates of Heaven and I talk to him, and we have great conversations.” Lewis’ literature has helped Luke gain a better understanding of God, and Luke’s relationship with God and his faith in Him.

His faith also acts as a base to why he does things, and how he thinks. “Christianity is the ‘why’ behind film and what I want to do with it,” he says. He wants to better people’s lives by telling them the truth about God through film. He wants his work to be a good work of art that still sends out his message to people. The way he treats people on set when he’s working with them is also influenced by his faith, he says. “I believe that the love and beauty of God is everywhere. His story is everywhere. So when I make a film, it’s always relevant to it. How do I find that—His story within the story and communicate it? Where is the beauty of God in this frame or scene?”

Her Campus at Emerson: What is your favorite book series?

Luke Zvara: C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. It’s called Out of the Silent Planet.

HCE: Favorite book?

LZ: East of Eden.

HCE: Favorite movie?

LZ: Tree of Life, it’s a very pretentious film, but I love it. Either that, or 8 1/2. Another pretentious film. Kind of fits in with the whole pretentious vibe I’ve been giving for this interview.

HCE: You’re only going to sound pretentious if I make you sound pretentious.

LZ: Yeah, but it’s hard to make Tree of Life not sound pretentious.

HCE: Favorite artist?

LZ: Freshman year, I probably would’ve said Bob Dylan. But right now, I’d say MewithoutYou. I wish I could go through my Spotify list right now.

HCE: Favorite form of social media?

LZ: Aaaah, I’d probably say Instagram. It’s the most hip right now.

HCE: Favorite store to shop at?

LZ: Probably Goodwill. You find the most creative things there. You never know what you are going to find there. I don’t like spending so much money on clothes. Goodwill or pretty much any other thrift store.

HCE: What do you look for in a girl?

LZ: Ahhhh now this is getting juicy. She has to be a Christian, for me to be interested. Actually a great thing for me is humor, for me to spend time with someone. She has to be able to stand my sometimes vulgar humor. I don’t want to have to hold myself back. Obviously, I have to be attracted to her. She should do something different than film, so that I can come home and be genuinely interested in how her day was. Someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

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