The story of a ten-year-old girl in Kerala, who rushed to a newspaper office last year to contribute her savings to the relief effort after the devastating floods in August though she was herself in considerable distress from an illness, made headlines across the world.
The story of young Shadia is now the subject of a 40-minute documentary — The Great Silence, scripted and directed by K.B. Selvamony.
Through the story of the gritty youngster from Pookatupadi near Aluva, and her fight to live, the documentary draws attention to the emotional impact of the 2018 floods on people and the astonishing depth of the compassion displayed by individuals, notably children, during the hour of crisis.
“We tend to think of gravely ill patients or people who are suffering as ‘shrunk,’ that they have somehow lost the capacity to love. But here was a girl, who had undergone multiple chemos, rushing to a newspaper office with her piggybank,” said Mr. Selvamony, an assistant professor in Malayalam Literature at the University College in Thiruvananthapuram.
“It was precisely that element of empathy that I wanted to capture in this work,” he said.
Narrated by Shadia in the form of a letter to a friend, the documentary features footage on the floods and the determined rescue effort that followed.
Voices of witnesses
Also included are interviews with flood victims, police officers and press photographers who witnessed the devastation and misery first-hand.
In one of the interviews, V.S. Vishnukumar, a Sub-Inspector posted at Thodupuzha, narrates how the rescue team recovered the corpses of two children, swathed in a blanket and a mosquito net, from a landslip site.
“They were the same age as my daughter,” he tells the interviewer, reliving the moment of tragedy.
The documentary touches upon the significant role played by children from Kerala in the aftermath of the floods. Apart from contributing to the relief effort, many children collected text books and study material for those in the flood-affected districts.
Produced by Lesli under the banner of Les Movies, The Great Silence is the third documentary by Selvamony.
God’s Waiting Room, Selvamony’s first work, told the story of retired Christian priests. Memories of Trans, his second work which won multiple awards, shed light on the struggles of the transgender community.
The Great Silence has been selected for the Malayalam non-competition section of the 12th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala which begins in Thiruvananthapuram on June 21.