It will be 14-year-old Barsha’s first trip abroad — something she had never dreamt of, not even when she, along with 29 other children, made a short film on child trafficking after a workshop with a Delhi-based NGO.
Born Free, which sends out a strong message through animation and a dash of humour, will be screened in the Children’s International Short Film category at Busan International Kids’ Film Festival 2013 (BiKi) to be held in South Korea from July 24 to 28 and Barsha will be representing her team.
“I am both happy and nervous. I hope to make new friends in Busan and have a good time. It is indeed a great opportunity for me,” said Barsha, an orphan who lives in a shelter run by New Light, a city-based NGO, at Ranikuthi.
Barsha will be accompanied by Debjani Mukherjee and Sayak Bandopadhyay, founders of Bol, which conducted the six-day workshop in association with New Light, and three more children — one each from Kutch, Jharkhand and Neemkheda in Madhya Pradesh.
“We have been given a 20-minute slot and plan to screen eight films at BiKi. We will also conduct workshops with children there. We travel all over India and hold animation workshops with kids. We use art and music to make animation films on current issues. While the children of New Light made theirs on trafficking, the bunch from Kutch made theirs on water shortage and children from Jharkhand focused on child marriage,” Debjani said.
A similar workshop was conducted with around 30 children of Future Hope School and the result was an animation music video, Ray of Hope, on drug addiction. “The participants were mostly kids whose parents work in leather factories and tanneries. Many of them are exposed to or are victims of substance abuse from a very early age. So we tried to show the dangers of addiction through the game of snakes and ladders. The snake represents the life of an addict while the ladder is what one can climb if he/she stays clean,” explained Sayak, the lead vocalist for Lakkhichhara. Ray of Hope is also slated for a screening at BiKi.
The participants were involved in the entire process of film-making from drawing the characters to recording the sound. Mohan Das, a student of Class IV, lent his voice to Jaggu the monkey, who helps free the animals from evil zookeeper Gobor Khan.
“It was such fun drawing and shaping the character of Jaggu. I want to be a brave English teacher when I grow up,” said the boy. “I gave the voiceover for a giraffe,” chipped in Barsha.
The children were guided by Debjani, an animator by profession. “The children drew on a 20-ft scroll. The cut-outs of animals were made and the film was shot using stop-motion animation technique,” she explained. “The kids also named the animals they drew.”
Mary who dreams of being an air-hostess, loved the brainstorming sessions. “Writing the script would keep me engrossed even at home,” she said.
Post-production, especially sound recording, was a challenge with the limited resources at hand. “We recorded at the shelter in Kalighat along with the kids. Ensuring pin-drop silence in the room was a tall order,” Sayak laughed.
Urmi Basu, the founder and executive director of New Light, is happy with the initiative. “It was a fun experience for these kids. Some of them had participated in a basic animation workshop in 2003. But this extensive programme gave them a lot of exposure and brought out the creativity in them. Trafficking is a very important issue. Most of the kids who participated in the workshop hail from victims’ families. So it was their way of reaching out to a larger audience,” she said.