HBO’s MARATHON BOYNovember 11, 2011
SING YOUR SONG
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE introduced American audiences to the Indian Cinderella story, albeit a fictional one. MARATHON BOY at first appears to be a real-life one. An adorable toddler, born in a mud-floor shack next to train tracks, is rescued by a sports coach who takes in orphans and makes sure they are educated and trained. Little Budhia quickly outshines the other children when his talent for long distance running is discovered. Before he is even four years old, Budhia has run numerous marathons, coached along with love by Baranchi Das.
As the whole Indian State of Orissa adores Budhia, questions understandably arise as to how much is encouragement and how much is exploitation. Baranchi Das and his wife Gita had adopted Budhia, but allowed his biological mother to stay with them. When his mother figures that Baranchi and Gita are making money off of Budhia’s popularity, she arranges to have him kidnapped back to her slum. Accusations of abuse are made, with Budhia half-heartedly telling stories of torture and beatings. Even after medical examination proves these false, Budhia is kept with his biological mother, breaking Baranchi’s heart.
Another dramatic turn (which I don’t want to reveal here) leads to even more unanswered questions in this fascinating look at a culture so different from our own. And yet as different as life in an Indian slum is, the basic questions are the same. How far is too far to push a talented child? Is it better to keep a child poor and uneducated with his biological mother or educated with an adoptive parent? Do government child welfare agencies really have a child’s welfare at heart?
Along with a fascinating story, Gemma Atwal‘s beautifully made documentary keeps an objective eye with a terrific score and gorgeous animated shadow puppet chapter titles.
Jean Tait is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. Currently the Director of Programming for the Connecticut Film Festival, Jean has programmed for the Jacksonville Film Festival and Sundance Channel.
Look for MARATHON BOY (HBO On Demand) availability on your local cable provider.
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