Rooting for Roona, directed by Bengaluru based filmmakers Pavitra Chalam and Akshay Shankar, has won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the 25th South Asian Film Festival of Orlando. The film won an outstanding average score of 4.69 out of 5, and was the only film to score above 3.80. The South Asian Film Festival is part of Enzian Theaterâ€™s cultural festival circuit and is co-presented with the Asian Cultural Association. Previous editions of this prestigious festival have included films like Dheepan by Jacques Audiard, Waiting by Anu Menon and Dhanak by Nagesh Kukunoor.
The 40-minute documentary tells the story of a little girl from Tripura named Roona Begum who was born with a birth defect - hydrocephalus - that caused her head to swell up to an unusually large size. Filmmakers Pavitra and Akshay shot the film for over five years, spending time with the family as they fought for Roona.
Her parents, Abdul and Fatema, had lost all hope when doctors from local hospitals told them that nothing could be done in Roonaâ€™s case. But when Roonaâ€™s story appeared in the newspapers, she got a lot of attention and many offers of help. Her parents then took her to Delhi, where the team first met Roona.
The media attention got two Norwegian students to raise money for Roonaâ€™s treatment through crowdfunding. The filming crew also benefited from the generosity of Pavitraâ€™s friend Hema Hattangady and executive producer, Vanita Boswell.
The documentary has been produced by Curley Street, a creative film production company based out of Bengaluru founded by Pavitra. In 2012, she directed Indelible, the story of seven people with Down Syndrome living in India. She was awarded the Asia-Pacific Award for Outstanding New Documentary Talent at the DocWeek Film Festival in Adelaide for Indelible in 2014. Akshay, Curley Streetâ€™s CEO is an investment banker turned filmmaker.