A long way from home

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KUDRAT SINGH reviews a critically acclaimed short film that addresses issues of identity and belonging faced by children growing up in cultures other than their own
The Road Home is a film that talks about a problem that most Indians living outside India face today, the need to teach our children about their heritage. This film looks at this situation from the child’s point of view and touches upon the sensitive nature of belonging and knowing your place (culturally) in the modern world.
Selected for the 2012 Academy Award “live action short films”, The Road Home is directed and produced by LondonFilmSchool graduate Rahul Gandotra. The film focuses on the quest for belonging faced by its young protagonist, a British born Indian, who is sent to the Woodstock boarding school in Mussoorie, India, to learn about his roots. The young boy faces the cruel taunts of the other local Indian children who see him as a foreigner, an imposter, and zone in on his vulnerability of being out of place. The boy finds no other option but to run away – which leads him on an incredible coming-of-age journey through the picturesque mountains of north India.
The film, part of Gandotra’s graduating work, was filmed on location in the Himalayas. It won him a jury prize at Palm Springs; was nominated at the British Independent Film Awards; shortlisted for the BAFTAs; and shortlisted for an Oscar in the short film section for 2012.
Rahul Gandotra was drawn to the project given his own background and experiences as a second-generation migrant.  He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and has lived in eight countries since then – all four parts of the UK, Saudi Arabia, India, and the United States. Gandotra says of the film, “It is semi-autobiographical in that I experienced what Pico (the protagonist in the film) experiences, and went to the boarding school in the film. Before going there, I had been born in Northern Ireland and lived mostly in the UK. So when I arrived at the boarding school at age 9, I insisted I was British, despite being born to Indian parents. People would ask me, “Are you ashamed of your roots?” not realising that I was defending a feeling I had inside of being raised and brought up in England.”Gandotra
This experience has led to Gandotra exploring the very interesting and relevant sociologic subject of the “third culture”. He says he discovered this term when researching the subject matter for his short film. He found the term and its explanation by sociologist Ruth Useem, to be rather exact in its description of the “sub-culture” created by children living within multiple cultures during their developmental years. The term originated when Useem noticed that expats seemed to form their own subculture that wasn’t quite the foreign culture they were living in, or their own home culture, but a unique blend of the two.
More recently the term describes children who have lived in multiple countries and cultures during their developmental years (from birth to eighteen) such that they are a mix of all the cultures they’ve lived in. These ‘Third Culture Kids’, as they’re called, have less in common with people who are biologically or ethnically similar to them and feel more in common with others who have moved around even though ethnically and biologically they may drastically differ.
On the back of the success of his short film, Gandotra is currently in the process of producing a feature length film. With a longer time length, the film hopes to be able to further develop the characters and story. This will most likely see Gandotra further developing the ‘third culture’ theme for the film. No doubt this feature film will cause quite the buzz when it is released in cinemas worldwide.
Check out Rahul Gandotra’s short film

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