‘Every human is an artist’

February 03, 2020 12:00 am | Updated 05:05 am IST - Mumbai

Trust helps children use cinema as a tool to heal past trauma

Storytellers:A group of students participates in the film workshop.Special ArrangementSpecial Arrangement

Storytellers:A group of students participates in the film workshop.Special ArrangementSpecial Arrangement

In an old building near Dahisar, a class of slum children is engaged in a discussion on film scripts that they have to shoot within a day. The all-child crew includes a director giving instructions to an actor, while another child with a smartphone is capturing the scene. Their classroom has transformed into the protagonist’s living room set with the help of an art director, also from their class.

“I did not know anything about films before, but now I have written a film and we are making it with the help of our friends at the centre,” says Poonam, a student at Touching Lives, a non-profit organisation that works largely on community development through education, healing and arts.

New skills

In addition to other activities, the organisation has started filmmaking workshops to instil storytelling abilities in children. They get acquainted with the fundamentals of cinema, its language and the required collaborative work with screenwriters, actors, camera operators and editors.

The 16-year-old organisation aims to use filmmaking as a therapeutic medium in classrooms and communities through screenings. The children are guided by subject experts from the film industry and former students of Prague Film School. The vision is to hold a Touching Lives Children Film Festival soon that would showcase films on children, and those made by children.

“With filmmaking, we tried to bring out aspects of life, including decision making, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication among the children,” says Sonia Mackwani, founder director, Touching Lives Welfare Trust. “We are showing films that encourage them to discuss the challenges and issues of their own lives and allow them to look within.”

Throughout the exercise, the children came up with ideas ranging from personal stories told through documentaries to fictionalised versions of their aspirations, and films with universal messages.

A documentary produced during one such workshop follows the life of Sonam, a student-turned-trainer with the organisation who has overcome several hardships to become a role model for other girls from a similar background.

“They are not just able to express themselves, but also universal and serious themes like LGBTQI issues, social stigmas, rape and topics of self-image and kindness.” says Ms. Mackwani.

Finding themselves

According to Masa Hilcisin, co-founder of the organisation’s Media and Films Initiative, these workshops help in the children’s skill development as cinema is one of the strongest industries in Mumbai. But, of course, the larger idea is to inculcate healing through cinema. “From the very beginning, we wanted to introduce cinema as a healing tool. This is another level of the programme which complements the knowledge of the tools of film production,” says Ms. Hilcisin, who teaches filmmaking at the Prague Film School.

Through each workshop, the centre promotes the healing power of cinema and finding oneself through their own stories. These are then reflected in the short films which the children make. “The most significant part for me is the core value of educating young people,” says Ms. Hilcisin. “Every single human being is an artist. The whole idea was to give space for such creative exercise and grow together.”

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.