A nine-year-old girl in rural India, exploited by child labor, must find a way to pursue her dream: How to read and write. She has one last chance when an educated man comes to town. Butterfly Dreams will screen with 10 other Inspirational Shorts on April 5th, 2014 at 4:15PM.
Frank Brennan: (Jp2IFF Co-Director) How would you pitch your movie to an audience?
Venkat Krishnan: (Director, Butterfly Dreams) My short film Butterfly Dreams is about Sumi, a nine-year-old girl, who works in a garment factory in rural India. She is exploited by child labor and must find a way to pursue her dream—to learn how to read and write. She has one last chance when an educated man comes to town. They develop a friendship and he agrees to teach her how to read. Sumi’s dreams to leave the factory and go to school are not realized, but she continues to hope. Will the hope change the young girl’s pursuit of a better life?
Frank: In your opinion, how does your film fit into the 2014 theme, INSPIRATION. This question applies to the film itself as well as its production process.
Venkat: Let me start with explaining what Butterfly Dreams means.
A butterfly is a symbol of transformation. It begins as an egg laid by a butterfly, hatches from the egg as a caterpillar, wraps itself secure into a cocoon and in the cocoon it undergoes a transformation to a beautiful butterfly. Butterfly Dreams marks the beginning of a transformation in one’s life.
In Butterfly Dreams, Sumi, a nine-year-old girl, works in a factory. She has no parents. She lives alone and takes care of herself. At her workplace, she is verbally and physically harassed by her employer. In this oppressive environment, she decides to shed her skin as a caterpillar and yearns to fly free as a butterfly and strive for a more meaningful existence to her life.
Frank: How did you hear about the festival?
Venkat: I went to film school with James Eimmerman at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. He lives in Florida right now and he brought this festival to my attention as he felt my film integrated the theme specified by the festival.
Frank: What challenges did you have shooting abroad? Was it easier or more difficult to shoot in India?
Venkat: I experienced many challenges shooting in India. One key issue was finding the factory. As my film is about child labor in India, I needed a factory to shoot. I scouted almost eighteen factories but no one gave me permission to shoot inside the factory as the film portrays the owners/employers in a negative light. I was told by film professionals to build a set. I was not comfortable doing that because the film might lose some of the authenticity. Finally after much convincing, I got permission to shoot in one of the factories. Still they put many restrictions, and one of them was, I was allowed to shoot from only one angle so that I didn’t get the company logo/name.
I had some advantages too shooting in India; for example, I didn’t need to get a film permit to shoot at each location.
Frank: The film’s ending isn’t a typical Hollywood “happy ending”, but leaves the viewer reflecting on their own life circumstances. What was your intention with the ending and did it go through a process of change?
Venkat: “A happy ending” is, most of the time, a pretentious ending because in real life, not everything ends happily. For this story, I always wanted to have a real and plausible ending. To me, an honest ending justifies the script and respects the characters in the film.
Even though my film doesn’t have a classic happy ending, it is not a tragic ending either. Sumi, who wants to go to school and become a doctor, did not achieve her dream. But the film ends with the hope that she will achieve her dream through her daughter.
Frank: What inspired you to write the script?
Venkat: India is considered to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But that is only one side. On the other side, there are 20 million children working as child laborers who are often subjected to verbal and physical violence by their employers.
The purpose of my short film is to show the world how children are exploited in poor working conditions in these places and to bring awareness to the public, global governments and other non-profit agencies throughout the world so that they may consider contributing to protect these children.