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A feature length documentary film by Sky Neal and Kate Mclarnon
Nominated for Best Feature Documentary, One World Media Awards 2018
Nominated for the Discovery Award, British Independent Film Awards 2017
A Satya Films / Postcode Films co-production
UK Sales – Hakawati
International sales – Cinestaan
Sheetal and Saraswoti met as teenagers in a Kathmandu refuge, survivors of child trafficking to corrupt Indian circuses and brought back across the border to a Nepal they could barely remember.
Even When I Fall traces their journey over 6 years as they confront the families that sold them, seek acceptance within their own country and begin to build a future. They struggle against the odds and without education, but inadvertently these girls were left with a secret weapon by their captors – their breathtaking skills as circus artists . With 11 other young trafficking survivors, Sheetal and Saraswoti form Circus Kathmandu – Nepal’s first and only circus.
As they take the bold step of bringing an unrecognised art form to the stages of Nepal, they simultaneously challenge the deep-seated stigma against trafficked women. They discover the courage to perform in front of growing crowds, but unexpectedly they also find the strength and will to address their past. We travel with them as they piece together broken memories in the rich beauty of the Kathmandu Valley, through the dusty poverty-stricken border towns of the Terai plains and finally to the bright lights of the famous Big Top at England’s Glastonbury Festival. Through this personal journey they discover a sense of responsibility that comes with the stage – to use the crowd’s rapt attention to spread a message – to educate against modern slavery.
When the devastating earthquakes hit Nepal they are drawn back to face its challenges with a new resolve.
An intimate, beautiful film that harnesses the visual power of circus to give a unique perspective into the complex world of human trafficking.
Why is this film important?
Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal activity – Nepal’s national report estimates that 12000 women and children are trafficked to India every year and there are currently an estimated 100-200,000 trafficked Nepali people in India. Children are often sold by family members hoping to give their children a better life, or simply as a last resource to provide for the rest of their families. Returning from domestic servitude or circuses is highly stigmatized. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015 has further exacerbated this situation, and local NGOs have noted that human trafficking is already on the rise.
We’ve been working with Circus Kathmandu for the past 6 years and know we’re working in collaboration withe the circus to create a powerful and beautiful film that has a strongly participatory component. Even When I Fall is a story of hope and change and is as magical to its audience as the most breathtaking circus performance. The film’s striking and exciting visual content is also becoming a platform of discussion on the many issues it raises including women’s empowerment, freedom of expression and education.
Plans for Even When I Fall
This is a film about hopes, dreams and inspirational young people who have challenged social stigma and their status quo. We are aiming for visibility at festivals and on television channels around the world following its world premiere in June 2017 at the UK’s largest documentary film festival, Sheffield Doc / Fest.
This film is a celebration of Circus Kathmandu and we are working with the circus to develop the film be an advocacy tool for their work to educate against trafficking in vulnerable communities throughout Nepal. It will also be a global platform and we are in the process of planning live action circus performances and film screenings- a unique platform to spread awareness and trigger vital conversations around the realities of human trafficking and modern slavery.
Working with the performers of Circus Kathmandu over a six year period, some from the moment of rescue and through the inception of the circus company, we chose to follow a process of filmmaking which had collaborative storytelling at its heart.
Early on we came across the challenge of how unfamiliar documentary filmmaking was, and how difficult it was for the young people to articulate their feelings to us, even though the desire to share was there. It was important for us to find a method they could relate to – that included them. As they discovered that performance could be their medium for both personal and political change, the film inevitably followed suit. Together, we looked at ways we could harness their skill and expression to help us to tell their story. The switch between the fantastic and the mundanity of daily life is one they make quite naturally as circus performers, and one we’ve tried to capture in the film.
As we got to know Saraswoti and Sheetal, the two main protagonists, we decided together that we didn’t want to create a documentary that focused only on the problems faced by poverty stricken Nepalis or the graphic horrors of victimhood, but instead to tell a story of resilience and transformation. We felt the story more rarely told is about the aftermath of trafficking in a survivor’s life and the barriers to surviving it with dignity. There is the collateral damage visible within families and communities – the stigma, the loss of childhood and education – but also the insidiousness of trafficking in the midst of so many problems and the way it hides itself in plain sight – offering safety, salvation and promise to desperate parents. We wanted to be able to show and understand the pain and guilt we saw carried by a mother who sent her daughter away with an aunt – only hearing her harrowing story 10 years later.
Saraswoti and Sheetal are inspiring, funny, brave and full of strength. It is thanks to their trust and patience that this is a film that portrays the impact of modern slavery on the lives of a small handful of individuals, in the microcosms of family and friendship.
The story of trafficking is complex and the road to tackling it is the same. The film we’ve made is not black and white but it gives us a glimpse into the changing lives of some amazing young men and women, whose skill and resilience we found incredible to witness. Instead of great declarations we have awkward silences, undercurrents of memory and distress, the slow building of trust and resolve. And the occasional gravity-defying backflip.