Netflix documentary

This week reminded me of my first day ever teaching at Shanti Bhavan in 2010… when I had a large movie camera in my face. The resultant documentary later won the Toronto Hot Docs Audience Choice Award from 200 films. We haven’t seen it yet as it’s still being released at festivals in the US. Maybe it will come to a festival in Australia one day.

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My first class with camera in face in 2010.

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The 2010 doco on “Three Chairs Lawn” – and I thought THAT camera was big!

This week it is a Netflix camera crew that can appear out of nowhere at any time. They are making an extensive documentary (5 x 1 hour episodes) exclusively about our amazing school. Their intrepid team of four are ‘embedded’ with us, like journalists in a war zone. They are filming absolutely everything from pre-dawn to late at night until they drop. Their stamina is only exceeded by that of the kids they are following. (Our kids would give the Energiser bunny a run for his money – but instead of batteries, ours are powered by rice).

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Dr George’s son, Ajit, Director of Operations, on the same “Three Chairs Lawn” in 2016 – the camera is bigger and a LOT closer.

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Netflix. Now THAT’S a camera!   It’s so big it needs a harness.

We never know when the crew might parachute into our class, or catch us helping kids to prepare for News or Public Speaking. Even though we know that there is a 99% chance that our five minutes of fame will end up on the proverbial ‘cutting room floor,’ it is still a little intimidating – mainly because of the size of the camera and sound boom.

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Ajit with his face painted for the carnival – more on that next week.

The documentary (called ‘Untouchables’) will be released in 150 countries in 2017 – subtitled in 30 different languages. It was the serendipitous result of a former volunteer, Jenny, who was enthusing about the school to her neighbour, Vanessa Roth. Vanessa is a young documentary filmmaker who won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. Her father was the screenwriter for Forest Gump (Academy Award), Benjamin Button and many others. I’m really looking forward to watching their finished product.

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As if debating in front of your peers isn’t challenging enough. [photo by Rachel Immaraj]

Graduates’ lunch in Bangalore

Our Saturday graduate lunch has become one of the highlights of our trip. This year we hosted over 30 ‘college grads,’ ‘working grads’ and volunteers to a lunch in Bangalore. It is always wonderful to see these fine young men and women flourishing outside the cocoon of the school. They love their family reunions and there is always much joking and teasing amongst the ‘siblings.’ We were a few guests short this year, as the annual Indo – German soccer tournament was the next day and 10 of the grad boys had to mark the pitches. They are so committed.

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College Graduates, Working Grads and Volunteers at lunch in Bangalore 2016. 

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As the grads left, they decorated Barney with their name tags.

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Vinceya, who was in 9th Grade when we first came in 2010, is about to graduate.


German Soccer Match

On the Sunday, we watched the annual soccer match in Bangalore. German companies based in India compete against each other and the proceeds are donated to SB. There is also a competition for school teams in two age groups; 16 & under, and 11 & under. Shanti Bhavan takes a strong moral stand regarding these age divisions, much to the disappointment of the kids who are just a little over the age group, who can’t compete. Not all of the schools have the same view. The photos below highlight the difference in size between our under 11’s and their competitors. Even the uniforms provided seem to have been made for giant ‘under 11-year-olds.’

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SB under 11 team

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Hey you in red! Pick on someone your own size!

Twenty SB girls provide a cheer squad and festive atmosphere to spur on both adult and school teams – and, just like the soccer boys, it is an honour to be selected. They also perform a dance routine before the grand final. The girls and boys leave school by bus at 5am and return home at 7.30pm, absolutely exhausted.

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Let’s get a little bit ROWDY, R-O-W (pause) D-Y!

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Volunteer cheer squad at the soccer.


That’s all for this week. Thanks to the lovely volunteers, Rachel Immaraj and Paul Reuvers for sharing their photographs.

Next time will be about Dr George’s 70th Birthday party and more.