Mother India Screening: A Story About the Untouchables

Approximately 31 million orphans roam the streets of India today. Noah Lamberth, brother of adjunct professor of communications Troy Lamberth, had a chance to go to India and put faces to this statistic by filming a documentary about the lives of street orphans in India last January.

The film is called Mother India: Life through the Eyes of the Orphan and literally that’s what the film shows the viewer. Noah came to Providence’s Film and Video Production class on Monday night, October 15, to screen the documentary and answer students’ questions about his experience filming and editing the documentary.

Noah Lamberth had known Shawn Scheinoha, one of the Executive Producers of the film, for about 10 years through a mutual friend, and last January Scheinoha asked Noah to come to India to film a documentary.  At first, Noah was hesitant because he had been to India before and decided never to return. But Noah, realizing this was for a good cause, decided to help these men share the story of these orphans.

On January 1, 2012, Noah joined Scheinoha and the other Executive Producer, David Trotter, in India and began filming. Scheinoha and Trotter had been in India for four days before Noah arrived and they had also been there in the past working with a humanitarian organization called Harvest India since 2004.

Trotter and Scheinoha were staying in a hotel in a village in Southern India called Telani. They befriended a “family” of orphans who would beg by the railway stations in the town. A student who attended the Providence screening asked Noah why the children had so readily trusted men after only a few days of knowing them. Noah was not completely sure, but he said that from his experience Indians are very friendly people. Even random people on the street would run up to the crew and greet them.

Noah said that it was very providential that the children did trust them. Raja, the oldest boy of the “family,” acts as their leader. He has been living on the streets for over a decade and has taught the other children skills for surviving in their rough conditions. The children trust him, and because Raja trusted the men, the others did as well.

The documentary shares the backgrounds of the children, revealing that many of them ran away from abusive homes. Many of the children use drugs as a way of escaping the mental torture of their condition. They live day to day begging for survival, sleeping in filthy alleys, hiding under blankets, despite the heat, to escape from mosquitoes roaming the night air.

In the Indian caste system, these children are labeled as “untouchables.” Indians believe that interacting with groups like these will give them bad karma, so they reject the children. Indians believe that these children were reincarnated to this life because of the bad karma they accumulated in previous lives.

Noah describes his time there as a struggle. He was faced with disgusting conditions and tragedy, and he could feel a spiritual warfare as well. He described feeling a very real spiritual depression and he saw people who were demon possessed in the way the New Testament describes possessions. As he was filming, he had to numb his mind to a certain degree in order to do his work.

Noah knew his purpose in filming — to expose the life of street orphans — but much of the story was developed as he was filming. They came to India knowing what they wanted to film, but not knowing which orphans they would film. By the end of the ten days of filming, the men had developed relationships with the “family” and Seresh, president of Harvest India, and his wife had begun the process of adopting two of the youngest children with the approval of Raja and the other children. This was not something the men had planned when they decided to film. It happened providentially through the course of their trip.

The process of filming was a process of discovery, but so was the editing. Much of the story that viewers watch in the documentary was developed post-production. During his time there, Noah filmed over 30 hours worth of footage. After taking a couple weeks off to recover mentally and physically from the trip, Noah began the editing process. He soon realized he needed help to compile the footage into a meaningful film, so in March, Trotter hired Troy Lamberth to help with the editing and script writing. Between March and June, the brothers and Trotter arranged the footage into a heart wrenching, but ultimately hopeful 45 minute documentary.

Mother India is a film that draws compassion out of the viewer and brings awareness to the plight of millions of Indian children similar to the ones in the film. It gives faces to a statistic, forcing people to face this tragic reality. The film also shows what organizations like Harvest India are doing to give children second chances at life, by loving the untouchables.

Since the film’s completion, it has been screened all over the U.S. and Europe. The film has been recognized by several film festivals like Crown Heights Film Festival. Just last week, San Diego Christian Film Festival announced that Mother India won Best Short Documentary.

This film is highly recommended. To find out more information about the film, a screening near you, or to buy the film, go to their website.