Conveying positive images

Pavitra Chalam, Director of the award winning film "Indelible."

Pavitra Chalam, Director of the award winning film “Indelible.”

I am grateful to Bharati who in response to yesterday’s piece on this blog “I wanted to be normal but I became special,” pointed me in the direction of a review of the film Indelible that I had highlighted, in The Hindu newspaper. Interviewed for the review, the film’s young producer Pavitra Chalam says of the individuals with Down’s syndrome in her documentary:-

“They taught me how to look at life positively. Archana, who is a Special Olympics gold medallist, says in the film ‘be proud of who you are, of you, of your life’. We are all worried about tomorrow and yesterday. They really teach you to live in the moment. This is not just a film about the syndrome. It’s a film about life.”

This notion of living in the moment was one that interested me in relation to Indelible. It did so in particular because of my experiences of working with parents several years ago when I was a head teacher. Parents of children with learning disabilities spend more than their fair share of time worrying about the future. When they see their son or daughter’s peers growing through the years and gaining greater independence they may have anxieties about how the future will look for them. In the past I have had many conversations with parents in which they have expressed their concerns, that their children will have difficulties in being accepted in a wider society or making friends.

The individuals with Down’s syndrome in Pavitra Chalam’s film demonstrate that they have found their own niche in their local communities by emphasising their abilities, rather than allowing others to focus upon their difficulties. Of course, the subjects of this film were in part selected for their exceptional skills, for example as athletes, dancers or poets and we know that not all have these levels of accomplishment. However, watching this film again early this morning I found myself wishing that it had been available to me in those days when I was a headteacher. My reasoning is simple, I would have liked to have a film that I could use to accentuate the potential of young people with learning disabilities and the ways in which they can contribute positively to the communities in which they live.

Pavitra Chalam’s assertion that “This is not just a film about the syndrome. It’s a film about life” may sound a little clichéd but I can understand what she is trying to say. The film focuses far less upon the fact that her subjects have Down’s syndrome than on their contribution to the lives of those around them. As parents what more could we wish than that our children play a positive role in the lives of their communities. Both Bharati and Jayashree in posting responses to yesterday’s blog responded positively to Indelible. Jayashree used the term inspired to describe her own reaction to the film. It would be good to think that others may find it equally inspiring.

Pavitra Chalam uses a different term when she says:-

“We tell stories of hope. Without hope, we have nothing. I’m quite a crusader for hope. I never know what the next story is going to be since it’s really like falling in love. It’s an organic natural process and I gravitate towards a story as much as it gravitates towards me.”

Maybe the provision of hope is something that can be achieved through a range of media. Pavitra Chalam has been eloquent in her use of film to present a positive story about a group of remarkable individuals. If we are to promote greater understanding of the possibilities of inclusion, we will need to use a range of approaches in getting a message across. Films of this nature may well make a significant contribution by conveying a positive image to an audience, many of whom remain in ignorance of the great diversity that makes up our normal population.

Pavita Chalam’s film “Indelible”  won the Award for Outstanding New Asia Pacific Documentary Talent DocWeek Film Festival 2014 in Australia.

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