Even When I Fall (2017)

April 9th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Sky Neal/Kate McLarnon; Documentary with Saraswoti, Sheetal; UK 2017, 95 min.

Sky Neal and Kate McLarnon’s incredible documentary explores how victims of child trafficking manage to build new lives out of their tragic past in Nepal’s first circus.

That said, the facts are pretty grim: human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity on the planet: 20.9 million people are used for slave labour of different kinds, 10 000 women and children are trafficked from Nepal to India a year.

One of these kids was Saraswoti, abandoned by her family at the age of eight, she ended up working in an Indian circus along with many other trafficked children from Nepal. She married the owner’s son when she was 14, and had three children at the age of 17. The death of her father-in-law and husband finally set her free, after the circus went bankrupt. Sheetal does not know her exact age, but she worked eight years in a circus in India and cannot remember any members her family after being re-united – she is sensitive enough to pretend otherwise. Situations like this lead to the stigmatisation of the children, since the parents easily transfer their guilt (often claiming naivety, when they deny their guilt), to the returning survivors.

Furthermore, the circus milieu has a very negative, sinful connotation in Nepal, which made it even more brave for Saraswoti and Sheetal to found the first Nepalese circus in Khatmandu with eleven other young survivors of trafficking. But their circus work is only part of their fight-back to create a new identity; they combine their performances with outreach work, leafleting extensively in the visiting towns where they meet with parents to warn them about the false promises of modern slavery’s gang-leaders.

After a long fight with the authorities, Circus Kathmandu finally secured visas to perform in Dubai and Glastonbury. But the triumph was short lived, because the devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015 worsening the situation at home again, escalating poverty and given the traffickers carte blanche to recruit.

Six years in the making, this is an illuminating testament to the circus-workers suffering. Robbed of their childhood and education, they have fought back: the graceful images of Sarwoti performing, and Sheetal’s poise when freefalling from the titular silk robes, will stay longest in the memory.

Most documentary filmmakers leave their subjects behind for good after finishing their feature. But this film team has raised funding at the end of 2017 from Comic Relief: the Circus Kathmandu can thus continue their outreach work, travelling to areas known for trafficking: performances and education will go on hand-in-hand. AS



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