Megan Mylan, the director of Oscar winning documentary Smile Pinki who is here for the ongoing Mumbai International Children's Film Festival, says she is more fascinated by reality than fiction. The filmmaker says her movie on the Indian village girl with a cleft lip was compiled after seeing 40 hours of footage shot.
"I find reality fascinating. So I prefer to do documentary films with a hope that they will help resolve some social issues," Mylan said on the sidelines of the festival.
Smile Pinki is a 39-minute documentary about Pinki, a five-year-old girl born with a cleft lip in a village in Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district. A simple surgery that can cure her was a distant dream until her family met a social worker travelling village-to-village gathering patients for a hospital that provides free surgery to thousands of such children each year.
Asked how she got into making Smile Pinki, Mylan said: "One of my friends told me about the NGO Smile Train that arranges for free lip cleft surgery in Varanasi. They travel to the interiors of India and search for people who have lip cleft."
After coming down to India, the American filmmaker followed the social workers for a few weeks and then found Pinki, her documentary's protagonist.
"I followed the social workers who normally distribute flyers and ask people if they know anyone with lip cleft. Finally we got Pinki," said Mylan
They caught Pinki and her everyday life on camera for a couple of days until she went in for the surgery. They continued shooting again after three months when she had completely recovered.
"We took some footage of the hospital and doctors speaking on it. The surgery takes just a few minutes and you are absolutely alright," Mylan said.
Asked if she had drafted a story before shooting, she said: "There wasn't any story...the story was compiled seeing the footage during post-production. "There was 40 hours of footage that we had to cut down to 40 minutes."
"Nothing was staged. Everything in the film was shot as it happened. Reality leaves a better impact on the audience," said Mylan, who is part of the jury of Mumbai International Children's Film Festival.
Asked about her forthcoming project, she said: "I am working on racial inequality in Brazil."
A special screening of Smile Pinki was held here Saturday for about 350 school students.