Rooting for Roona, a documentary on a girl born with hydrocephalus, that causes her head to swell up to an unusually large size, released on over-the-top (OTT) streaming platform Netflix on October 15. Shot over five years at a village in Tripura, it is directed by Bengaluru-based filmmakers Pavitra Chalam and Akshay Shankar.
The filmmakers had visited the family of the girl multiple times over five years to shoot the documentary and follow Roona’s road to recovery. However, the little girl passed away in 2017, leaving the family and the film crew grief-stricken.
Her story had first gone viral when a local photographer snapped a picture of Roona, after which media across the world wrote about her. Pavitra too had seen the story reported by a journalist friend, and with her team, she headed to Delhi to meet Roona.
In an earlier interview to TNM, Pavitra had spoken about the bond the team had formed with Roona. They met her first at a hospital in Delhi where her family brought her for treatment. It was Ananya Roy, a member of the crew, who helped the family with the language barrier – the family’s Bengali was not understood by the hospital staff in Delhi.
In the documentary, you will see the different stages Roona goes through, smiling through all the pain of multiple surgeries being done on her young body. The parents were also really young, Akshay said.
The film is produced by Curley Street, a production house based in Bengaluru. The executive producer is Vanita Boswell.
The 41-minute documentary won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the South Asian Film Festival of Orlando.
Every year, an estimated eight million children – six percent of total births worldwide – are born with a serious birth defect. Rooting for Roona issues a clarion call to the global health community to make birth defects a global health priority.
Watch: Trailer of the film