Operation India - a young documentary teams' experience
We were mentally unprepared, it was our first real taste and experience with the practices of Community Based Rehabilitation and we were travelling by jeep to rural villages in Nellore, Southern India. You can never imagine what near to third world poverty will look like until you are suddenly surrounded by it. An eerie silence fell as 30 plus villagers came to greet us. It seemed the two students were receiving an orientation of the people that Pragathi Charities, (the institution they were working with), cared for and helped on a week to week basis. Severe cases of Polio, birth defects, hearing and visual impairment, Cerebral Palsy and almost every client they saw was classified with “Mental Retardation”. People have viewed footage we had taken from the first village we visited, and the question was asked.
“Is this a village for people with disabilities?” No, it isn’t, that is just how many people in such a small community are continually suffering each day. We arrived at the exterior of yet another dirt floor hut, and had no idea who lived within it’s walls. This is the moment I have retold countless times since arriving home, and selfishly gain undeserved sympathy from others for when they ask the all to familiar question of “What was the most confronting moment of the trip?”. The woman was about 3ft long and pulsating in the dirt. She suffers from severe cerebral palsy, mental retardation, hearing impairment, and barely has a backbone. For thirty six years she has lay in silence in the dirt and looked at the roof. We were told, like most of the people we saw that day, that her condition was a result of a blood marriage. For those few endless minutes that we were inside her home it felt like we were spectators. I’m sure the two Occupational Therapists may have been able to do something for her, but at the time no one knew what.
This is just one among many overwhelming moments that occurred during the unforgettable six weeks that our documentary crew spent following the young Australian Occupational Therapy (OT) Students, as they worked in Southern India. Whilst there the OT students worked in and amongst various institutions and Community Based Rehabilitation programs and volunteered a significant wealth of knowledge, along with care for disabled men, women and children alike.
As a group of young film makers and being an independent self funded project we were always going to struggle to raise funds to produce this documentary. Miller very kindly helped our cause in the purchase of the super efficient, outstandingly smooth and much needed light weight (especially in 45 degree Chennai heat) of the SOLO DV 2-stage carbon tripod.
Our little lightweight SOLO had a great adventure over the memorable six weeks and it performed like an absolute champ in a variety of situations. From the urban high rise slums of Chennai, to swiftly and subtly being set up in mental institutions to the always confronting rural villages of Nellore, and often being buried into the scorching hot sand, panning along the Tsunami affected coastal community of Kovallum beach. We weren’t the only ones who were impressed with our SOLO as no matter where we went we always managed to acquire an audience who would stand intimately close behind Simon our cameraman and either eye off our PDX-10 or nifty little tripod.
But it wasn't all work for our little SOLO there were numerous times when it got to socialise inside village huts and witness the crew graciously drink relentless cups of horribly salty coconut water and be force fed chapati and bean curd, while two, young, Aussie girls dressed in brilliantly coloured saris attempted to teach a preoccupied family stretching exercises for their child with Cerebral Palsy. These are the moments that would not be traded for anything. We were so generously welcomed into people's homes and lives who seemingly were disadvantaged and had nothing, yet still managed to have the most infectious of smiles constantly on their faces.
The six weeks were a great success beyond any of our expectations as we managed to capture the personal and professional journey of the OT students, the incredible stories behind the people they were helping and working with and of course the colourful sights, often pungent smells, and chaotic sounds of Southern India.
For more information on the progress of the project contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Cole (Producer)