When three priests from the Angamaly Archdiocese came together to tell a story, one of them wrote about two little children taking things into their own hands the way children in poor families do, and the other two made it into a film. Father Jose Puthussery, a young Catholic priest who liked to write but had not watched many films, scripted the tale. Fathers Jacob Koroth and James Thottiyil, more used to watching films and making a couple too, directed it. David & Goliath, the result of their work, was selected for the Isolation and Survival Short Films category at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK).
“The Chalachitra Academy had conducted a scriptwriting competition on the themes of isolation and survival. Ours was one of the 10 scripts out of 800 that won awards. Fr Jose Puthussery chose the background of COVID-19, wondering how kids in poorer families with no outside help would deal with the pandemic if one or both of their parents fell ill,” Fr James Thottiyil tells TNM.
Years ago, when Fr Jose was working with people in the alleys, he saw a little boy – a class 3 student – selling lottery tickets to buy food for his sister and run the family when both their parents became unwell. “That’s where his story came from, of how little kids in a poor family would face the pandemic and act practically, since they have no one else to take care of them,” Fr James says.
In David & Goliath, you watch a bunch of healthcare workers tracing route maps and travelling to remote places to track people with COVID-19. It was the early months of the pandemic when Kerala recorded less than 500 cases in total, and the rest of the world appreciated the state for its proactive measures. In the film though, the children become the real heroes, surprising the healthcare workers who come to check on their mother.
The mother you don’t see on the screen is very alert and has obviously prepared the kids for an emergency such as this. She has to be isolated in a room, away from them, while they take care of their needs. The elder child is a boy, about seven or eight years old, with his little sister tagging behind him everywhere. Both of them keep a certain distance from each other, holding on to the ends of their mother’s old sari wound between them. The mother has endearingly used games and stories that children understand to help them through the ordeal, reminding you a little of the tragic bits in the Italian drama Life is Beautiful.
“We named the film David & Goliath for two reasons. In one aspect, the children represent David and the health workers who come to take their mother away, Goliath. In another aspect, David is symbolic of Kerala, or the hidden mother in the film, and Goliath is the disease. We used the Malayalam version of David (Daveed) and the English name Goliath to suggest this connection of Kerala and an international disease,” Fr James explains.