February 2, 2009 / 11:08 AM / 10 years ago

Two documentaries set in India eye Oscar glory

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - Forget “Slumdog Millionaire.” Two documentary films shot in India are also eyeing Oscar glory this month.

“The Final Inch,” a short film on the battle against polio, and “Smile Pinki,” the story of a child with a lip deformity, are two of four films nominated for best short documentary at the Academy Awards.

“Particularly in India, public health workers are incredibly committed to polio eradication,” Irene Taylor Brodsky, the American director of “The Final Inch” told Reuters by telephone.

“Ultimately, my film really glorifies and appreciates how hard the Indian people are working to make a polio-free India a reality.”

Brodsky’s 38-minute documentary, filmed in Mumbai’s slums and other Indian cities, follows health workers going door-to-door to persuade families to get their children vaccinated.

Parents can be suspicious of government-administered vaccinations. In December, false rumors of children falling sick after taking polio drops led thousands of parents to protest in the southern city of Bangalore.

Polio, which is incurable, can lead to paralysis and even death. An international immunization effort has cut polio cases by 99 percent in 10 years. But the virus remains endemic in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Megan Mylan’s film “Smile Pinki” is the story of six-year-old Pinki who becomes a social outcast because of a cleft lip.

In the 39-minute documentary, the girl from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, undergoes corrective surgery and gets a normal childhood.

“She stopped going to school as her classmates teased her and referred to her as the ‘cut lip’,” Pinki’s mother, Shimla Devi, told Reuters Television.

“Now after the operation, she’s back in school and everyone calls her Pinki,” Devi said.

Plastic surgeon Subodh Kumar Singh, who treated Pinki for free, said the film’s Academy Award nomination will help create awareness about the condition.

“With the film going to the Oscars, it will create awareness worldwide about the plight of children with the cleft lip and more people will come forward to help,” Singh told Reuters Television.

“Their lives can be transformed with a simple operation and many doctors are working to get a smile back on their faces.”

There has been little media coverage about “Smile Pinki” and “The Final Inch” in a country obsessed with Oscar frontrunner “Slumdog Millionaire,” which has already won a clutch of prizes.

Editing by Matthias Williams and Sugita Katyal

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