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Indian documentary bags award at New York short film festival

By Jatindra Dash, IANS

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A documentary film depicting the conditions of an Indian working child has bagged a special mention jury award at a New York film festival, its producer Friday said.

"Breathing Without Air", a 23-minute debut documentary-fiction film by Orissa-based journalist and producer director Kapilas Bhuyan, was awarded at the New York Short Film Festival-2004, held early this month.

Produced by Vidhi Infotainment, "Breathing Without Air" is the only film from India to win an award at this festival, Bhuyan said. The film shows a child who earns his living from roadside shows by burying his head to provide instant sensational entertainment to viewers.

The documentary begins with the main actor digging a pit in the ground and burying his head in it.

But then, it's just the beginning. What follows is the child's sojourn in his dreamscape that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

What happens in the darkness that engulfs him in the pit? How does he survive the ordeal? Does he dream or fantasise? If so, of what?

While "Breathing Without Air" attempts to answer these questions, it also turns into a metaphor for the soul-killing deprivation of working children in India.

Shot in the rural settings of Odagaon in Orissa's Nayagarh district, it took about three month to conceive the idea and shoot the fast fading art of Mundapota Kela, a nomadic community in southern Orissa, Bhuyan said.

Apart from making some money from their roadshows, the Munadapotas collect honey, capture snakes, porcupines, comondo-dragons and rats, he said.

The film depicts the tale of a father and son duo from the community. The 11-year-old son buries his head in the pit, while the father accompanies the show beating his drum.

They perform at least a couple of shows every day to earn their bread.

"Breathing Without Air" was rejected at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) early this year. It, however, was accepted well at the Bring Your Own Film Festival (BYOFF) in Puri last month.

Reacting to the film's rejection at MIFF, Kapilas Bhuyan said: "I expected a better response to the film at MIFF, but it happened the other way round."

He felt the film was not given a serious look in Mumbai or the jury just chose to avoid bringing to light the deprivation of the working children that the film depicted in the so called `feel good' atmosphere.

"However, I am elated to learn that our work has been noticed by the distinguished Jury at the New York Short Film Festival," he said.


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