Jamshedpur, India native Amar works hard to excel at school, dreams of playing professional cricket and juggles multiple jobs to support his family. He is only 14.
London-based independent filmmaker Andrew Hinton captured a day in Amar's life during his stay in India. Hinton has worked as a producer for several years. He also spent a year as Artist in Residence at London's Southbank Centre with the band Saint Etienne to make a film documenting the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall and its history.
Amar screened at KUKI 2011, Berlin's International Short Film Festival for Children and Youth, and the 2012 Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, among many other international festivals. The film received rave reviews in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and India. Hinton won multiple awards for Amar, including the Satyajit Ray Foundation 2011 Short Film Competition Award and the recent Vimeo Award for Best Documentary. (In February of this year, the filmmaker returned to Jamshedpur to split the prize money from the Ray Foundation Award with Amar's family.)
Hinton responded to AsiaBlog's questions about his documentary via email.
How did you come across Amar, and what about him made you choose him as your film's subject?
I met Amar while staying in Jamshedpur with a member of an organization called Initiatives of Change. She is the director of five public schools, and had created an opportunity for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend school in the afternoons. She kindly took me to visit her schools and it was during one of these visits that I asked whether there were kids who worked as well as attending classes. I was introduced to a few kids, but when I met Amar and he quietly explained what his day consists of, six and a half days a week, 350 days a year, it really made me stop and think about how I use the time in my own life.
Your film is more than nine minutes long and contains no dialogue. Why did you decide to tell the story in this way?
Amar doesn't say much. He has a quiet determination which I think comes through in his actions so I wanted his day to speak for itself, rather than trying to explain it with voice-over or dialogue. I tried music but it just didn't seem to work. I liked the simplicity of the natural sounds.
What were the challenges in getting such intimate access to Amar's daily life? How did Amar and his family feel about being filmed?
It was a remarkably simple project from start to finish, almost as though it was just meant to happen. Everything seemed to fall in to place so naturally. I visited Amar's home with the school headmaster, who explained that I wanted to film him for a day, and his mother and grandmother were a little puzzled but quite happy. There was a little negotiation with his employer but apart from that it all just came together very easily.
You show a day in the life of Amar. Was it filmed in a day or did you have to spend some time for all of the pieces to fall into place?
It is very much filmed in one day. I'm a big fan of verite filmmaking and so it felt important to be as honest in the process as possible. No special effects, retakes or stunts in this film.
Where will your next story take you?
I was fortunate enough to be sent to a remote children's community in the Himalayas a couple of months ago and spent a fortnight filming there. It's an amazingly inspiring place, founded by a Buddhist former monk who had a very difficult childhood and decided to create the opposite for orphans in his area. The place is overflowing with compassion. Those kids are remarkable. I'm about to start editing the footage, so I hope I managed to capture some of the magic!