BISTANDERS: How long can we ignore reality and live like indifferent
UN Charter on Children's Rights has been adopted by all
but two countries in the world, making it the most endorsed
treaty in the world. It articulates the rights of children,
including freedom from discrimination in any form: (Article
2: Children must be treated " … without discrimination
of any kind, irrespective of … race, colour, sex,
language, religion … or other status." the right
to a family with two parents: Articles 5 & 18: State
signatories must "… respect the … rights
and duties of parents … [and recognize that] both
parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing
… of the child.", and where that is not possible,
the right to appropriate alternative care: Articles 20 &
21: The State shall "ensure alternative care …
[for] a child … deprived of his or her family environment
… [according to] the best interests of the child ….".
It also demands the highest possible quality of health care
be afforded to the child: Article 24: All children have
the right to "the highest attainable standard of health
… [including access to] primary health care …
nutritious foods and clean drinking-water." However,
the fact that almost every country in the world endorses
this treaty does not necessarily mean the articles of the
Charter are followed.
reality is that many of the provisions of the Children's
Rights Charter are not met. As we speak many children live
in destitution or are exploited at work. According to UNESCO's
website, 'Programme for the Education of Children in Difficult
Circumstances', over 100 million children live in poverty
and distress. These children are almost invariably treated
with indifference by governments and civil authorities (UNESCO,
2006.) These children have little to no education, meaning
they are kept in a cycle of menial jobs and poverty that
is perpetuated by ignorance.
is an inherent right of every child, but there are millions
who are deprived of education. Although every child is guaranteed
"the highest attainable standard of health" (Children's
Rights Charter, Article 24, 1989), millions die from preventable
diseases as we in the civilised world watch them die like
Alone in Kolkata". a 64 minute film about the journey
of a child labour in India. This film was screened in the
ACT and televised by "Channel Vision", and the
film was discussed at the ACT Legislative Assembly by Ms.
Karin McDonald (see Hansard Transcript). The film had its
international debut at Nandan, in Kolkata, India, on 31st
December 2007. Thanks to all cast and crew who believed
in this project and dedicated their time and energy to make
this project possible.
FILMMAKING EXPERIENCE IN KOLKATA, INDIA
By Paramita Roy
was December 2005, a team of five from Australia were busy
working on a film project in the city of Kolkata. The story
was about an eleven year old Muslim boy Mohammad, disguised
as Hindu Hori, traveled all alone to the city of Kolkata,
to find a job in order to support his family back in his village.
India produces more than a thousand films a year, and this
particular medium has immense influence on the masses, and
especially the newer generations.
Growing up in this rich visual culture, even those who can't
read or write can still read the visual subtext, and visual
cues very competently and accurately. The people in India
are quite knowledgeable about this powerful medium of film.
People with families and friends regularly go to the movies
to be entertained. Like royal watchers in Britain and Australia,
people follow film culture and lives of celebrities very closely
and diligently. They know what elements make a film saleable,
what makes it a commercial success, and I wasn't spared by
anyone who knew the purpose of my trip to Kolkata in December
of 2005. Every chance people got they would stop and advice
me on my project. Many of them dismissed my idea straightaway
saying, "Who would be interested in a film about a little
kid?" and offered me their words of wisdom. "How
about a romantic love story, a comedy, or, perhaps a remake
of The Godfather in India? Can't you write a story about a
romance between an Australian man and an Indian woman or vice
versa?" and so on.
I knew that our film didn't have the required formula, the
spice, a twist in the end. Swapan, my uncle's young chef,
advised me quietly: "Didi, you still have time, make
a few little changes, add some romance, a bit of violence,
spice it up with some Bollywood dance and that's all you need
to make your film a sure hit!" I thanked him and all
the others for their genuine concerns, and tried to avoid
any further debate or discussion on this subject.
We were working almost 18 hours a day, planning, auditioning
hundreds of actors, mostly with acting experience in tele-films,
rehearsing with the main cast, and our super efficient production
manager was finalizing the dates with the crew, organizing
the locations etc. To make the story more authentic, the Mike
Leigh method of character improvisation was applied. I was
introduced to this particular technique at the Australian
Film, Television and Radio school (AFTRS) in Sydney by writer
and director, Robert Merchand. This process allowed the actors
to be more involved in the project.
The filming was to commence on the 1st of January 2006. But
on the 26th of December 2005, the Indian subcontinent was
hit by a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami, leaving
us all in absolute shock. But to our surprise, the crew was
determined to go ahead according to our schedule. Therefore,
in a chilli winter New Years day early morning, my cast member
Salim Bhai alias Ramji not only had to shave his very dear
moustache, but had to pour buckets of ice cold water straight
from a street tubewell onto his bare body, all in the name
of Film, and we continued this for take after take. Not a
word of complaint was heard. The actors, I must mention here,
were not only enthusiastic but extremely professional in their
attitude and approach. The 64 minute long film "Hori
alone in Kolkata" was shot in 12 different locations,
and principal Multicultural Women's Advocacy Newsletter Page
7 of 8 shooting was completed in four days time.
The outdoor shoots were extremely difficult as hundreds of
people often crowded to watch the shooting, and there were
individuals who at times got carried away and even called
out "ACTION", startling the entire cast and crew.
The moving of heavy tracks, lights and camera equipment were
limiting us in many ways. Had we a smaller crew we could have
experimented more and used more camera angles in the film.
The first cut of the film was done in Kolkata, and the final
cut of the film was made in Canberra.
The purpose of this film was to capture the plight of this
lonely little boy, and tell his story. This film was not intended
to merely entertain the audience, therefore surely it will
disappoint many. But from a filmmaker's perspective, this
experience had been a wonderful learning experience for all
of us involved. Through this project we met many people, made
many new friends, learnt new skills, new strategies, but most
importantly we were deeply inspired by the people of Kolkata
who live in such difficult conditions, yet are still so enthusiastic
and passionate about any creative work and art.
The film "Hori alone in Kolkata" was shown in Canberra
early this year, was shown in Cairns in October, and will
be shown in India in December this year. You can read more
about audience feedback and future screenings by visiting
our website on
Paramita Roy, a local filmmaker. She has graduated with a
and master degree from Queensland University of Technology
and attended Master classes at the Australian film, Television
and Radio school (AFTRS) in Sydney. Paramita
has written and directed several short films, and presently
working on her first feature film.