I think what we have to do with #SkaterGirl on #Netflix is best described by Sushmita Pathak who did a piece for National Public Radio (npr), India. It’s a clear and complete article in which everyone gets a voice. Good journalistic work – not PR.
Of course we feel it’s fair to say that the Janwaar story (at least) inspired Skater Girl. The parallel between reel and real is too obvious. Even though the film director denies this, the Janwaar story speaks for itself and you will not find any other rural place/village where such a skateboarding story was written. From Deutsche Welle to The Guardian, from Huffington Post to any major Indian news channel, they all reported on it. Film makers and visitors from all over the world have visited the place called Janwaar Castle and brought this obscure hamlet in the middle of nowhere on the world skateboarding map. Its skateboarders have represented India at the World Championships in Nanjing, China, in 2018 and have won numerous medals in the Indian National Competitions. Year after year.
One girl truly stood out in Janwaar and has become a role model for many other girls. Her name is Asha Gond – and you know her from our newsletter. She ist not alone, but she has taken the lead. A real rural change maker tackling gender equality and new ways of learning. She is an Ashoka Fellow/Connecting Dream Foundation Fellow. She confidently says “I’m THAT girl” (just listen to her rap song) and takes responsibility in so many ways. She is giving talks all over India on these issues and is running a little school in Janwaar which includes differently abled kids.
Unlike myself, Asha was never asked by the film maker or anyone of the SkaterGirl team, if it is OK to tell the story. Asha was in contact with the team and the team was in Janwaar multiple times. Only at the very end, when the movie was already shot in great parts, a few Janwaar kids were asked via a casting agency in Delhi if they want to be bystanders in the movie’s very last scene. Asha, as well as the other kids, replied: “If this is our story, we want to be seen and tell our story. We don’t want to be only in the background of the last scene.”
For sure there are various ways to tell a story and a fiction film is not a documentary. Yet – I feel – there are ethical and moral principles which film makers should live up to, especially when they tackle stories of indigenous and/or “underprivileged” people.
I am in ease with my decision to drop out of the contract I had signed with the film makers. Their way wasn’t my way. And certainly it wasn’t the Janwaar way. And Asha, after being a bit furious and really sad for a few days when she didn’t receive any response from the film maker to an email she had written, is now saying: “Ulrike, I’ve understood when there is a dead end street another street will open!” And already many streets opened – so there is more to come!
I am sure we will benefit from #SkaterGirl on #Netflix and so will the Indian skateboarding scene.