Wednesday, March 28, 2007

India - Children of Nomads

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
Vinay and Meenakshi Rai presented an extraordinary project at the final session this morning. We saw excerpts from their award-winning film, “Children of Nomads,” in which nomadic and non-nomadic Indian children interview each other. The contrasts in their background knowledge and cultures were simultaneously funny, touching, and thought-provoking. Some excerpts from the dialogue:

Non-Nomadic Child (NN): How often do you take a bath?
Nomadic Child (NC): I take a bath every day.
NN: You don’t feel cold?
NC: Cold….what is cold?
NN: You know…..Brrrrrrrrrr……when we wear warm clothes.
NC: (duh) I take a bath in warm water.

And this one, about traveling by airplane:

NC: What do you get in an eagle-cart?
NN: Toffee, food, blankets.
NC: What do the clouds look like?
NN: White, very pretty.
NC: Do you get to see Rama?
NN: (puzzled silence)
NC: Rama…the God.
NN: No, but if I see him, what message should I give him?
NC: Tell him I need food, home, water, banana.

When the excerpt ended, to loud applause, Meenakshi Rai said: This film made us understand the difference between Literacy and Education. My child is literate but not educated. The nomadic children are educated, but not literate. This is the unique strength of nomadic culture. She added, It’s not really a film, it’s the beginning of a poem.

The pair have a broad vision plan for the next five years, in which they will be running government-sponsored media literacy workshops in which nomadic children will make films in their own voices, about the problems and issues they face. The Rais have also started creative writing projects, putting writing professionals together with these children to capture their oral history, stories, and songs. Here at the Summit, Radio JOJO in Germany has agreed to broadcast all the stories produced by the Indian nomadic children.

They are also using the award money from the film to start five culture schools in nomadic communities. Their goal is to discover and document lost music and lost traditions, which she described as crumbling under pressure of survival. And again here at the Summit, the Cairo Film Festival agreed to devote one day to screening these completed films.

As is the case at any conference like this, one is always looking for gems amidst many droning, bureaucratic presentations. We found a diamond here in Johannesburg with Children of Nomads.

1 comment:

  1. For a differing opinion...

    "Children of Nomads" was submitted to the international children's TV festival, PRIX JEUNESSE, and didn't make it through pre-selection. When seen in its entirety, the program takes on a prurient and condescending air.

    There were many questions similar to "how often do you take a bath," asked first by the non-nomadic child presenter of several nomadic children. The child has a shocked and somewhat disgusted reaction when the nomadic children answer "once a month" or less. After a time, these questions didn't seem innocent and childlike, but as though she was a prop, programmed by her parents the filmmakers.

    I love programs that reveal the dignity in all children's circumstances, but this one heightened the distance by making the "other" come across as strange and to be pitied.