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Film on Indian nomadic performers thrills global circuit

By Jatindra Dash, IANS

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A child buries his head under the ground as people around him watch, at once shocked and thrilled.

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

For exploring the darker side of such performances by members of Orissa's nomadic Mundapota Kela community, a film titled "Breathing Without Air" has been picking up several international awards.

It has now been selected for screening at the Commonwealth Film Festival to be held from April 30-May 9 at Manchester in Britain.

"The Commonwealth Film Festival is non-competitive. However, the selection itself is considered prestigious," said the film's producer-director Kapilas Bhuyan, who is also a journalist.

The most recent honour to come the way of the 23-minute documentary was the Best Short Film Award at the Festival du Cinema de Paris last month.

Depicting the conditions of children in the nomadic community, the film by Orissa-based Bhuyan also bagged a special mention jury award at the New York short film festival this year.

"It took about three months for us to conceive the idea and record the film on the vanishing art form of the Mundapota Kela community of southern Orissa," Bhuyan told IANS.

The community survives by collecting honey and capturing animals like snakes, porcupines, dragons and rats that infest granaries. Another source of livelihood is a road show called Mundapota.

The most thrilling item of their performance consists of a person burying his head underground.

Shot in the rural settings of Odagaon in Orissa's Nayagarh district, the documentary depicts the tale of a father-son duo from the community.

The 11-year-old son buries his head under the ground, while the father accompanies the show beating his drum. They perform at least a couple of shows every day to earn their bread.

"When I was a child I saw many such road shows. However, on one particular occasion, on a hot summer noon, I saw a child with his head buried and another accompanying him.

"Its impact was so shocking that till date I have retained the memory. This prompted me to do a documentary on them," Bhuyan said.

Produced by Vidhi Infotainment, "Breathing Without Air" also turns into a metaphor for the plight of India's child labourers.

The film has also been sent to events like the International Festival of Fantasy Films in Belgium, Vision du Reel Film Festival in Switzerland, Oberhausen Film Festival in Germany and Archipelago - 12th International Festival of Short Films and New Images in Rome.


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