Seven-year-old Kamali is the only girl skateboarder in a small fishing village in India where, by chance, a skate ramp happened to be built right outside her house. Kamali's timorous mother, Suganthi, gives in to a burning desire to escape her past and decides to take a pilgrimage in a quest for self discovery. As mother and daughter are separated for the first time, they both must find their freedom as they dare to step outside into a man's world.
Kamali was nominated for Best British Short Film for the 73rd British Academy Film Award a.k.a BAFTA. Sasha Rainbow is the director. She has already won Best Director at The Mumbai International Short Film Festival for Kamali as well as Best Short Documentary at Atlanta Film Festival. Her Wild Beasts 'Alpha Female' music video featuring women skateboarding in India was shared by Tony Hawk. A BBC interview about the music video went viral( 600,000 people viewing it within a week). Now, she is working on her first feature length documentary, which is about one of the world's biggest electronic waste dumps. So, get to know this brilliant storyteller and read this to see why her latest documentary short, Kamali, deserved the nomination.
1. What is the genesis of the short film Kamali?
I was making a music video for a song called Alpha Female by British band the Wild beasts focusing on the burgeoning female skateboarding movement happening in India. During my research I stumbled across this image on the internet of a six year old Indian girl in a dress, barefoot, speeding down a ramp on a skateboard. I had always wanted to make a documentary on the side of the music video about the skateboarding scene, but when Kamali and her mum stayed with us for the duration of the music video I got to know about their personal journeys and just how much skateboarding meant to them. I think Kamali's mother's story resonated with me so much as I am an immigrant with a refugee mother and have always been conscious of how much of my existence is due to the hard decisions that were made by my family before my time. It felt amazing to stumble upon a woman making those same kind of choices right now.
2. What was your writing process like for Kamali?
For months our small team met and watched films and discussed potential story lines for the film, which of course we had to throw to the wind the mintute
we arrived. Our editor David Higgs travelled with us and would process all the footage from the day then we would meet and discuss the story potential for the next day.
Translating was a lengthy process, so on the other side of the shoot we spent a lot of time with the transcripts, cutting and pasting them into several orders to see what
stuck. At one point the room we were working in looked like it was decorated in Christmas decorations.
3. Could you give an interesting fun fact about any individual in Kamali?
I can't think of anything about any of the subjects that would surprise you, but I can tell you I not only chose cinematographer Jake Gabbay on his merits as
a DP, but also because he had had a dream that he had made a film about a young girl skateboarding. You can't beat that!
4. What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after making Kamali?
The biggest surprise was discovering that a good story was all about relationships, a concept that seems really obvious now. I am a self taught filmmaker and have read most books on filmmaking, but none of them truly made sense till I started cutting in the edit room, which is when the ideas came alive and flowed, like a piece of music.
Now I feel this instinctively, in my bones.
5. Have there been any criticism of Kamali since its release?
I am not aware of any criticism of Kamali since its release.
6. What message would you want the audience to grasp after viewing Kamali?
I didn't make Kamali to convey a particular message, but if anything, I would love if any women in an abusive relationship see this to feel inspired by Suganthi to leave them, and any parents bringing their boys and girls up differently to see Kamali and realise the huge potential for their daughters when girls are allowed to play and discover their passions. Really, it's an ode to motherhood, and the power any given individual can have when they decide to tread their own path.
7. Which filmmakers do you admire or inspired your work?
It might surprise you but I was hugely inspired by Spike Lee's 'Do The Right Thing,' a film about racial confrontations on a block in New York City on the hottest day of summer. We knew from having already met Suganthi that the village were opposed to her allowing Kamali to skate and that the family were fairly ostracised because Suganthi was a divorced woman, but when we got there, people behaved as though they were very supportive. This sort of forced us to focus on the family more and in the end make a more intimate film about a mother empowering her daughter, and inadvertently empowering herself in the process.
8. Huge congrats on getting nominated for the BAFTA Awards (Best Short film), which celebrity/celebrities would you like to see or meet?
Kamali was made with a very small team, who above all else, made it with love and a passion for filmmaking. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that being
nominated for a BAFTA was beyond all of our expectations, so just being in the room, and having the opportunity to meet other creatives at the top of their fields is very special.
9. Where were you at when you discovered that Kamali was nominated for BAFTA Awards?
I was in New Zealand with a couple of very old friends in a place called the sound shell, an outdoor park in the botanical gardens when the BAFTA
announcements were being made. It felt like an incredible homecoming.
10. Which past BAFTA nominated film is your favorite and why?
I'm a huge fan of American Beauty and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest. I guess both are about the unravelling of the human condition, something I am fascinated by.
11. What was your very first short film? What were the challenges you face and how did you overcome them?
My very first short film was called Kofi and Lartey which I am currently developing into a feature film. Kamali was my second film. I think the major challenge was
the amount of time we had on the ground, which meant there wasn't much flexibility to delve into the story when we finally found it. But documentary is always like that, there's a magic to it, following a thread and your collective instinct, and it always works out in some way.
12. What do you wish you had known when you were starting your career?
Don't wait for anyone to give you permission to create.
13. Which novel/novella/short story have you read that you would like to do a film adaptation?
I am currently attached to a book Jack and Rochelle produced by Neal Edelstein which is a love story between partisans in the forest fighting for their life in WW2.
It's incredibly moving but also a perspective I haven't heard before, with a huge focus on the female experience of war.
14. If a self-published author is seeking a director, how would one get you to read his or her story to see if it would make a compelling short film or movie?
Writing a short one page description of the concept with a script attached would be the best way to get it in front of a director.
15. What show would you like to make a cameo or direct?
I'm a huge fan of Mind Hunter and End Of The Fxxxing World.
16. Do you skateboard? If so, have you skateboard with Kamali?
I started skating in India three years ago when I made the music video about the female skateboarding movement there.
I did skateboard with Kamali when I was in India. I think she's much better than me.
17. Last question, which film do you predict would win for BAFTA’s Best Film and Outstanding British Film?
There are so many great films, we'll have to wait and see!
All the best to Sasha Rainbow as she attend the ceremony. I hope she has a great time and enjoy the moment. I'll like to thank her for answering those questions as well. As for my followers/readers, thank you for stopping by. You too can participate along with the festivities by watching the BAFTA awards which will air on BBC America at 9:00 PM ET (Sunday, Feb. 2nd).