Oscar winner Megan Mylan showcases new docu at KIFF
Kolkata, Nov 16 (IBNS) Megan Mylan, an American documentary film director, born in California and raised in Dallas, Texas is known for her films Lost Boys of Sudan and the 2008 Academy Award-winning Smile Pinki.
In 2003, Mylan and Jon Shenk directed Lost Boys of Sudan, a feature-length documentary about two Dinka boys who fled the Sudanese civil war for the United States. The film won an Independent Spirit Award and through theatrical release, PBS broadcast and an extensive social action campaign raised millions of dollars for refugee scholarships.
In 2008, Mylan directed Smile Pinki, a film on efforts to provide free cleft palate surgery in India. She focused on the work of the Smile Train program in Varanasi, India. The film won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
Mylan has now made a 10-minute short called After my Garden Grows which is being screened at the 20th KIFF. It narrates the story of a young Bengali girl called Monika who lives in a village in Cooch Bihar and to prevent from her getting married at an early age, has found a solution in growing a small rooftop garden on the terrace of her home that is sold in the market. The proceeds of the sale helps in the upkeep of this very poor family.
This film was premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. It is produced by Principe Productions and supported by the Sundance Film Institute in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) with additional support from the Kendeda Fund.
"Ideas of social change and stories of people evolving on their own through change are what pull me to make documentaries on their enterprise and hardship. My films, though they deal with poverty and ignorance, are aimed at hope because I see hope in the way Monika is trying to change her life along with the lives of other girls in her village. She is knowledgeable about what she is doing and talks about this in my film," says Megan.
"I find change happening everywhere across the country and I feel this message will find its way to others through this film," she sums up.
In 2011, West Bengal launched a micro agricultural programme for adolescent girls. Monika says that her poor father had to spend Rs.20,000 on her elder sister's marriage along with a bicycle and a gold ring. Now 16, Monka says she will not marry till she is at least 18 or 20 because marriage is a big burden on poor parents and her mother agrees with her.
But her father feels disturbed because he believes that a girl is meant to be married off and the sooner this happens, the better. Monika grows greens like gourds and also mushrooms and explains the nutritional benefits of mushroom specially for vegetarians who do not eat fish or meat. She has a compost bin and shows other girls how she goes about her garden.
The film shows how she goes to the market while her father negotiates the price and she stands beside him, smiling. In a village center for girls, the group members talk about how empowerment of girls is being hampered because parents are in a hurry to marry them off. "It is as if our marriage will solve all their problems," says one of them.
Monika, the graphics explain, is one among 40,000 girls in the West Bengal programme. The girls are eating better, staying in school and marrying later. Yet, across India, nearly half of all girls are married before they reach 18.
Prasanna's low key music with traditional musical instruments of Bengal enrich the natural visuals of the film. The director has taken great care to allow her subject to speak freely and does not intrude into the narrative with interviews, voice-overs and even graphics. Within the ten-minute span, Megan Mylan has managed to make a strong political statement on how young adolescent girls across India can empower themselves and put off marriage plans through self-employment through whatever knowledge quotient their rural lives can provide them with.
(Reporting by Shoma A. Chatterji)
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