3rd I



Children of the Pyre

Saturday, November 7
Castro Theatre, San Francisco

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Director: Rajesh S. Jala
Country/Year: India, 2008
Running Time: 74 mins
Language: Hindi with English subtitles

Introduced by Prof. Angana Chatterjee, CIIS, Cultural and Social Anthropology

Every day and night countless bodies are cremated along the Ganges River in Varanasi. The work required to sustain the endless operation of the cremation grounds has drawn young children desperate to make a living in any way possible. Often working together and surviving off of the beautiful silk shrouds they collect and resell, these children unapologetically tell their own stories of living and working in the midst of so much death. At times darkly funny and at others deeply morose, Children of the Pyre humanizes these children forced to grow up before their time. - Indian Film Festival, Los Angeles

"Rajesh S. Jala's latest feature-length documentary upends and redefines the meaning of "direct" in direct cinema and its observational, non-interventionist style," writes Rowena Aquino in Asia Pacific Arts. For 18 months, Jala stayed at a guest house 20 metres from the cremation grounds and eventually won the trust of the seven children and their families. In an interview with Sudish Kamath for The Hindu, Jala says, “In the summer, it gets extremely hot on the cremation grounds. Sometimes, about 150 bodies are brought there in a day and all that smell… But more than physically tiring, it was mentally exhausting in the beginning to just get used to the idea of being around corpses. But these children do it every day.”

Winner of Best Documentary at the Montreal Film Festival and Sao Paolo Film Festival. Official selection, IDFA 2008.