Her Song portrays a devastatingly powerful human story of resilience in the face of systemic injustice and exploitation in India, one of the world’s rising global powers. In Her Song, Indian-born director, Atin Mehra, and co-director, Mae Thornton Mehra capture the intimate story of a family surviving at the very bottom of the caste system as they face the decision of whether or not to send their youngest daughter into the longstanding community tradition of prostitution. At twelve years old Bulbul flickers between the levity of childhood hope and the brutal reality of her marginalized caste, in which girls are prized for their economic worth. Bearing the weight of a family in crisis, an HIV-positive sister and an historically exploited community barred from other economic opportunities, Bulbul stands at a crossroads where globalization propels centuries of caste-based discrimination to a boiling point. Interweaving intimate verite footage with artful historical narrative, the husband and wife team carefully captures an astonishing oral history of the Banchara Tribe, whose own rich background was erased and re-written during colonial-era India. It is through this telling that Bulbul is empowered to grapple with the limits of her own agency in a society that seeks to reduce her to a commodity.
Currently in post-production.
DEVOTEES OF SHIVA
Doc Series: Devotees of Shiva
Devotees of Shiva Doc Series will consist of 10 self-contained 30-minute episodes which follow Shiva Devotees in India and Nepal as they pursue their ascetic existence and serve individuals and communities seeking spiritual guidance or help with challenges in their lives. Each episode will focus on a different Shiva Devotee and his/her interactions with those who seek their help. The stories will focus on humanizing the ascetic wanderers and their chosen spiritual paths and in so doing connecting them on an intimate level with the viewers. The audience will gain a close look into the traditions, struggles and daily lives of both the devotees and common women and men in present day India and Nepal.
In Hinduism the three highest manifestations of God are Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer and restorer of worlds. A sadhu or sadhvi is a man or woman who has given up his/her ordinary life path to devote him/herself to Shiva as an ascetic wanderer or holy person. Sadhus/Sadhvis are respected and supported in society with offerings of food in return for their blessings and prayers. Occasionally men and women in need seek spiritual guidance or help from Sadhus/Sadhvis when facing challenges or hardship in their lives. Sadhus/Sadhvis have existed in India for at least 2000 years. It is estimated that in present-day India and Nepal there are some 5 million sadhus, a majority of whom are men.
Cycle of Clay
A thirteen minute documentary about the livelihood of artisans of clay and the niche of their earthen creations in present day India. Babu Lal\'s ancient family tradition of making clay pots presently competes with the sale of cheap plastic vessels in which chai, sweets and other milk products are sold.
Amritavela of Varanasi
Amritavela of Varanasi (Morning Hours of Nectar of Varanasi)
Filmed in Varanasi, India during the morning hours.
Morning along the ghats. I am blessed to accompany these images with Respected Pandit Ishwar Lal Ji, Shri Dhananjay Mishr, Shri Anand Mishra, and Shri Bhume Sahani's music. Big thanks to Fabien Bourdie and Lionel Bodi for their recordings.
Life's Imprint (A Documentary Film)
Are we meant to consciously bond with our babies in utero?
This documentary, co-directed by Atin Mehra and Tera Judell, focuses on the impact prenatal and perinatal bonding have on the individual. The manner in which we bring our children into the world both prior to and immediately following birth leaves a great impact on the way in which a baby emerges into the world and goes on to learn from and interact with his/her surroundings throughout life.
Life begins before birth, and therefore, parenting also starts prior to birth. This nine-month gestation period is a time for the mother and the fetus to come into relationship. Everything experienced by the mother is also consequently experienced by the fetus. If the caregivers fail to take into consideration the impact this crucial time period has on the baby, he/she may suffer from any range of ailments caused by violence, abuse, alcoholism, hypertension or stress.
This documentary presents the in depth telling of one mother, Anne’s experience working with her skilled Cranio Sacral Therapist, Tera Judell over a three-year period. She tells the story of how her first child died during the birthing process and describes how this experience later supported her to bring her now two-year-old little girl into the world. Cranio Sacral Therapy works directly with the body’s natural capacity for self-repair to treat a wide range of conditions. Tera Judell uses it as one of her tools to implement bonding between the mother and baby.
The documentary includes interviews with skilled practitioners from a wide range of fields, including David Chamberlain, PhD Prenatal and Perinatal Psychologist, Marshall Klaus, MD Neonatalogist, Ray Castellino, DC(retired), RPP, RPE, RCST, Franklin Sills, MA, RCST, UKCP, Diane Poole Heller, PhD Trauma and Attachment Model Expert, Laura Corio, MD, OB/GYN, and Carolyn O’Mally-Adlong, lactation consultant. Also included are excerpts from interviews with mothers and children who have received Cranio Sacral Therapy both before and following childbirth. The interviews inform the audience that our sense of self originates in the womb.
The imprint of prenatal and postnatal care become the matrix that remains with each of us behaviorally and psychologically throughout our lives.
Hidden Apartheid: A Report on Caste Discrimination
"Hidden Apartheid: A Report on Caste Discrimination" is a 70 minute independent human rights documentary that gives an in-depth history and analysis of caste based discrimination. Since the early 1900's Indians have migrated across the world, seeking freedom from caste based inequality. But, since the 1970's caste practices have emerged throughout these host countries. Over the last decade a hierarchical atttitude of graded inequality is increasingly evident. Caste discrimination outside India has been reported in community centers, places of worship, work places, educational and political institutions, restaurants, public transportation, and in matrimonial columns.
Produced over a period of four years, what started as archival interviews of ‘alternative histories’ for the academies turned into a full-length film. After completing the interviews, we felt that the invisible aspects of caste discrimination that the interviewees discussed needed to be exposed to the wider public. This led to our transforming our original archival interviews into “Hidden Apartheid: A Report on Caste Discrimination”.
This film illustrates how casteism originated in Indian society, how caste segregation was systemic, until the Constitution of India made it unlawful. However, political democracy has not translated into social democracy, casteism, and "untouchability" have remained, and are practiced in every country where Indians have settled.
On-going caste conflicts in the UK and the USA are explored through the interviews. The interviewees are from India, the UK, USA, New Zealand, and Australia. Caste based discrimination has very recently been challenged in the UK, through legislation. The film highlights the struggle to stop this scourge of caste discrimination.
Very little about this subject is known by non-Indians, because the alternative stories of India's poor have been historically hidden. This film brings awareness to injustices that need to be confronted urgently by the wider world.