In India there are 5.5 million children not enrolled in primary school. Calcutta Mercy Hospital provides free education to children in the slums of Calcutta through a program called Project Rhino.
Schooling through Project Rhino only costs $1 a day per child. The challenge is that they can’t expand into new communities at the moment because of a lack in resources. Still Life Projects was approached to produce two short videos to raise money for the children who are currently on a waiting list to receive free education.
We knew we wanted to find characters who have benefited from the program, so as soon as we arrived in Calcutta we took a tour of each of the Project Rhino schools. Given the budget and time that we had on the ground, we decided two stories in two locations would be best.
The first location, Kadamtolla, was an obvious choice since Project Rhino’s first school was built there. We knew the community would be both supportive and excited to have a crew working in their village. We decided to interview a handful of schoolchildren who were willing to be on camera to find our first character. We settled on Mangala, a sweet nine-year-old who was excited to be a part of the film. Once we decided that she would be our character for one of the pieces, we met her family and arranged to come back the next morning to spend the day with her.
For the second location, we settled on an urban school in one of Calcutta’s slums, Bagajotin. After talking to dozens of children, we met a boy named Arjun, who was unfazed by the camera and extremely outgoing. His father pedals a rickshaw for a living. He graciously sacrificed a half day’s work to spend time with us, as did Arjun’s older sister, Rachana.
Over the next two days we split into two crews and spent time with each of our characters in their homes. The more time we spent with their families, the more they seemed to enjoy being on camera, which climaxed with Jeff taking an epic ride around Bagajotin with Arjun’s father.
The most touching part of our interview with Arjun’s father came when he expressed his desire for Arjun to have opportunities in life … to not have to pull a rickshaw like he has. It became clear that Project Rhino really has the potential to change not only the course of Arjun’s future, but of hundreds of other children who otherwise would have no chance of receiving an education. This largely became our main storyline for each character, and we focused our efforts on that larger story arc.
Once back in DC, with the footage loaded up the challenge became clear. How do we communicate the huge potential of Project Rhino to end the cycle of poverty for these children in just four minutes?
After completing translations from Bengali to English and finding some great music from S. Carey and Helios, we had several cuts before settling on a structure that starts with Arjun trapped in a cycle of poverty where he’s destined to become a rickshaw puller like his father. Halfway through the piece the climax reveals that he is being given the opportunity to go to school, and in the end, he expresses his desire to be a doctor and help others.
As editing drew to a close we worked with the hospital to build an easy-to-use donation page integrated with their existing website, while simultaneously coordinating Facebook and Twitter campaigns. The link takes viewers to a donation page custom built for the campaign, which describes in detail where the money is going and how it will be used.
STILL TO COME
Still Life Projects is honored to have helped Project Rhino inspire others with the stories of its bright children. The next video from Kadamtolla will be out this summer. Here are a few photos from this location.