England/USA/India, 2010, 98 min
A national hero, Budhia Singh made headlines by running more miles before the age of six than most people run in a lifetime. But what motivates this young boy? Is it safe for a five-year-old to run multiple marathons? Filmmaker Gemma Atwal focuses on these questions and many more in this spellbinding and often unsettling documentary. Budhia is a scrappy slum kid from the eastern Indian state of Orissa, where he and his mother search for their next meal. Biranchi Das is a charismatic judo instructor who runs an orphanage and becomes Budhia’s mentor. Together, this dynamic duo captivates a country. As the determined boy runs and runs, coach Das sets his sights on Olympic gold. When India’s government hurls accusations of child endangerment, the story takes a sharp and sudden turn. Using footage she gathered over several years, beginning with Budhia at three years old and ending when he’s eight, Atwal crafts a tale with thrilling twists and turns. Her verité style gives us an immediate sense of access to the people and places of the story while refraining from easy judgments. Combining intense scenes of contemporary Indian life with striking shots of the country, Atwal builds a fascinating story full of contradictions and complexities that resonates well past the last frame.
In Oriyan and English with subtitles. Presented in association with 3rd i. GGA Documentary Feature Contender.