Cast: Nishant Rai, Raj Rai,Suraj Subba
Director: Chandrasekhar Reddy
Having released across India on Thursday, this film which had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival in 2015, bagged two top awards at the 14th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) and was the only docu-feature from India at Hot Docs, the Canadian International Documentary Festival held earlier this year, is well-deserving of all the accolades won at the above and a host of other festivals, too numerous to mention.
“Fireflies in the Abyss” is the debut feature length documentary of TV doc-maker Chandrasekhar Reddy who spotlights the dreams of poor labourers from and in India’s north-east, especially those of Suraj, the 11-year-old who wants to flee from the coal mines and an abusive, alcoholic father.
Many of the labourers are from Nepal: a guitar playing ex-soldier who harbours dreams of vengeance against the wife who deserted him; a couple with three young children including an ailing baby boy; a young man whose snappy wearing apparel underlines his upwardly-mobile aspirations.
The film follows Suraj and these miners whose grim life-stories are intertwined. Reddy took on the mantle of producer, director and cinematographer: where the last task is concerned, the influence of Sebastian Salgado, the renowned South American photographer is easily discernible in the footage of the miners toiling in the “rat-hole’ mines in the Jaintia Hills of the North-east; hostile pits where men and boys daily risk their lives for a pittance. The adults, needless to say, are fully aware of the violation of anti-child labour laws.
Fireflies in the Abyss is beautifully shot with a pleasing background, albeit Western, score. The characters emote effortlessly for the camera, ventilating their grievances, sorrows and desires. Only the hard of heart will be loathe to empathise.