Monday, October 3, 2011

Children are the essence of purity. Untouched by many human discrepancies, their virginal spirits spreads an aura of happiness to others who surround them. Fokiya Akthar, a professor in the Media and Communications department of Manipal University and a proficient documentary film-maker talks about her latest quest for realism, ‘Children of God’; a film based on lives of children with special needs in Dubai. 

Ms. Fokiya Akthar
completes her latest documentary
"Children of God"

Realistic and moving, two words that adjectively sum up the heart of this movie. Initially titled as “We are all just people”, the name was altered to its final title at the editing stage. 

“My approach to the film was to touch upon the reality in these children’s lives. Movies that have addressed similar issues in the past left the audience with sympathy alone, missing out on what one can learn from the children’s spirit for life” she says. 

Ms. Akthar’s inspiration was innate and her curiosity in documenting the lives of the weaker sections in the society mainly women and children are apparent in every scene. Miniscule detailing separates ‘Children of God’ from other documentaries that have touched the same subject. “In the film, I decided to have no voiceover, so I would not be tempted to focus on one perspective alone. Each shot is therefore self-explanatory.” 
Still from the film: Priyanka Khanna and her mother 

When asked if there was any particular moment or incident that stirred any particular emotion, she remembered Priyanka’s (one of the kids) story touched her. 

"She is always so dolled up, her personality is so vulnerable, and she looks at someone and instantly falls in love with them. Being a woman; I know her dream of awaiting a fairytale” Ms. Akthar says.  

“While I was working on the movie I realized how we are the ones who are political and corrupt. All these children want is to enjoy life; we are the ones who are abnormal; not them.”

Still from the film: Special needs child working on his colouring sheet which in turn develop his motor skills

Production was her toughest challenge. Sorting permissions was not all fun, but the welcoming families of these children made it an extraordinary experience. In fact not all went as it was planned; the original story line revolved four children, but as the story evolved the other’s presence in the movie became inevitable. 

In terms of drawbacks, Ms. Akthar pointed out that children with special needs in Dubai suffer from expensive education. “Their life is good here, but education is very expensive. Most of the families cannot afford it. Major organizations that are here also cannot offer the children an affordable life.”

Her journey through the film was life changing, “I thank God everyday for what he has given me. I pray that the children’s parents always find the courage to deal with their pain.” 

A rapid fire round with Ms. Fokiya Akthar:

HM: One cause you are passionate about?
FA: Women and Children

HM: Your dream project?
FA: One commercial film

HM: Describe your life as a producer in three adjectives?
FA: Challenging, interesting and giving

HM: Camera is_____
FA: Eye of your inner self 

Report by Christine Cherian and Heena Makhijani.