Published: 26th May 2021
From the Shadows: Miriam Chandy's docu on trafficking victims and their pursuit for justice is compelling
From the Shadows tries to understand why trafficking happens and what happens to the victims if they manage to escape
It was the silhouette of a young girl on a wall with the hashtag 'missing' that first caught filmmaker Miriam Chandy Menacherry's attention. She kept seeing similar artwork on walls across Kolkata and other cities, including Mumbai. Another hashtag said 'every 8 minutes'. It seemed so eerie that Miriam couldn't help but find out more. She met up with the artist behind it, Leena Kejriwal, to find out what it meant.
Leena told her about how she grew up overlooking the red light area in Kolkata and how she was disturbed by it later on. She had been working with different NGOs in the area and wanted to spread awareness about trafficking. So she blacked out the details to create a silhouette of a girl to send out a message that every eight minutes, a girl goes missing. What intrigued Miriam was that Leena was able to spread the message even to the most un-urban parts of Kolkata, where every other house has stories of missing girls. She was drawn to that story.
Since then, it's been a five-year journey of trying to find out how these girls went missing, specifically a few who managed to get out and are trying to fight for justice. The documentary leads us to the stories behind these missing girls. Please add a quote here
The film titled From the Shadows is a very sensitive subject and Miriam had to face a lot of obstacles. She explains, "As a filmmaker, you can't go with too many givens. The laws keep changing so you have to know how to navigate it in a way that is ethical. Trafficking thrives on being covert and most of the films on this issue are mostly investigative in nature. This film is different in the sense that it hits closer to home. It talks about how it happens in our own neighbourhoods."
The film also features a veteran activist named Haseena whom Leena consults and who has a track record of cracking a lot of trafficking cases. The film then tries to understand what the chances of justice are, if a girl manages to come out of a black hole and what her chances of reclaiming her place in society are.
Miriam, the director and producer of the film, did her Master's in Film and Television from Jamia Millia Islamia. She initially worked as a journalist and then started doing documentaries with UTV, Mumbai. She has also worked on a series for BBC World and directed a film for National Geographic called the Stuntmen of Bollywood. The film has been chosen for seven different international platforms and was one of the 18 projects chosen as part of the Global Media Makers Fellowship, a fellowship by the US State Department.