Filmmaker Diary from India
The more we can learn about each other, the more we can see how similar we truly are. And once we can see and feel those similarities, we can respect each others' differences ...
Where to start, where to start? I have been trying to put down some thoughts about my incredible experiences screening Somewhere Between with Film Forward in India…and I finally realized why I have been struggling so much - there is a certain sense of overwhelm I still can't shake from being in India. I've been home for almost a week, and yet it is still difficult to describe. Conveying the experience of India - and mind you, I was only in Mumbai and Delhi for several days each - is as complex as the country itself. To say it is a series of juxtapositions is such an oversimplification.
I got a real taste of the country and culture for my first two screenings in Delhi: the first, to take place at Jawaharlal Nehru University, was cancelled due to a student protest that broke across the entire campus; for the second, which did screen at the India Habitat Centre, we had the lucky timing of playing at the same time as the India vs. Pakistan cricket match (basically, their Superbowl) - I was lucky to get the audience that showed up! I felt Like I plunged into the identity of the country with these two screenings - how apropos.
The screenings themselves - and the responses to the film - were also so complex. Almost as many people sent me comments and questions via Facebook after the screenings, as did those who asked questions in person. I am going to include some of them here to share the feedback that people were not always comfortable to share in public. The in-person, personal conversations were deep, profound, political, and sometimes very surprising.
Let's start with the surprises for the audiences: the idea of adoption is completely different in India than it is in the west, and the concept of westerners going to Asia to adopt a child was brand new news to most of our audiences. People had great things to say about the theme of the film being about identity, but most people focused on adoption…as evidenced here:
"Loved the movie at today's screen at IHC, Delhi...The theme of the film was awesome, probably something that otherwise I wouldn't have ever heard or read about; really touching. Something I would have loved to have in the movie was the adoptive parents' side of the story. Why they decided to adopt and that too from China? How did they feel while taking care of the adopted kids...? Infact, what are your feelings with your kid? Suggestion - Maybe you could add an introductory section where you talk about your feelings related to the adoption and maybe also provide an intro to the whole concept."
"I would like to thank you for making film on this topic..I wasn't much aware of the whole one child policy in China and definitely did not look at it from the perspective that was shown in the movie."
"My biggest surprise: that just about everyone talks while watching movies in India. To their seat mate. Group discussions. Cell phone conversations. As an American filmmaker, I was pretty unnerved; they're all bored! disinterested! and must really not like the film. But my second surprise was that we'd have a really good Q&A session afterwards about the film…despite them missing what I felt was a good portion on the film."
"Loved your film at the Epicenter Gurgaon today. Left with a sense of deeper understanding of adoption as well as quest of all humans to understand their place in this world."
"Thank you so much for making it possible to see the exceptional documentary "somewhere between". Although I'm a medical doctor, I believe I understood the issues faced by the adopted children and their families much better after watching your film. I believe this documentary should be viewed by every single person associated with adoption either directly or indirectly (including the general public). I loved every second of the movie. Thank you for allowing me to take a picture with you."
My favorite interactions were with the students we showed the film. One film student told me that he thought that documentaries had to be grey and dingy and boring, but now he saw that it could be a great way to tell a story. I also loved the film student who said: I think the government of India should see this film. Here are two of my favorite Facebook posts from students:
"It was a pleasure to have you with us today at the D block studio, Amity University. I thoroughly liked the documentary. And if you can recall, I was the one who mentioned about how the situation is so similar here in India but yet so different when it comes to facilities such as foreign adoption and therapies etc. I also told you how I felt so emotional (despite the fact that I'm not a very emotional person). Your documentary definitely struck a chord in my heart. THis generation is suffering from an overdose of commercial films and I believe screening such documentaries would bring a pleasant change.
I'm a photography enthusiast and I aspire to become a film maker one day. Watching "Senna" and "Somewhere Between" has inspired me and has given me new insights. I wish to keep in touch, and hope to interact with you in future."
"Was a great conversation indeed and I don't have words to describe the movie..the emotions were beautifully captured. One thing that was there in my mind after the screening got over was that how a certain policy of the government, which is implemented for the so-called well being of the society and the citizens of a particular country, have such devastating consequences for SO many people. These policies can completely change their lives forever and this very fact is ignored by the policy makers..this is not limited to only China but the world as a whole."
Every experience I had and reaction I received in India emphasized and clarified my own personal philosophy about people and the power of film: The more we can learn about each other, the more we can see how similar we truly are. And once we can see and feel those similarities, we can respect each others' differences. And then, we can truly connect as people. And once that happens … well, only good can follow. This is all embodied in the purpose of Film Forward.