DER Documentary

Ordinary Lives


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by Sheetal S. Agarwal
color, 38 min, 2005




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Mumbai is the financial capital of India, which is predicted to be the most populated city in Asia in 2020. Today, half of the city’s population – 7 million people – are living in slums. Such demographics only exacerbate the economic issues and infrastructural problems that exist. While offering solutions to problems faced by the people living in areas of appalling housing, confined space, and extremely low incomes, the Indian Government, NGOs and other research institutes treat people as if they are figures rather than human beings. Although several studies and films have been made on the issues of slums, their major focus lies in housing, infrastructure and other environment-related problems. They ignore the larger questions of how people are psychologically and socially shaped by their confined living spaces and how those residents, in turn, define the place they inhabit.

Ordinary Lives uncovers the living conditions of residents in a slum in Mumbai, focusing closely on the daily struggles of one joint family with ten members of three generations crammed in a 180-square-foot shack. This family represents those in India at the very bottom of the social hierarchy. The subordinate and poor – especially the young and the women – have different concerns from those of government officials, whose goal is to replace the slums with a new cosmopolitan, modern development modeled after those in Shanghai. Through a poised juxtaposition of voices from both inside and outside the slums, the film re-examines issues such as poverty, human rights, and gender equality that have been troubling India and other developing countries.


Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Best Documentary KODAK Award – student competition, 20th Fort Lauderdale
International Film Festival, November 2005
India International Women's Film Festival, 2005
Golden Lion International Film Festival, Swaziland, 2005
Delray Beach Film Festival, 2006
Washington DC Independent Film Festival, 2006
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Images of the 21st Century, 2006
Finalist, Sweet Auburn International Film Festival, Atlanta, Georgia, 2006
San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, 2006
Michael Moore Award – Best Documentary Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2006
Vibgyor Short and Documentary Film Festival, Kerala, India, 2006 Sehsuchte 2006, Germany
Woods Hole Film Festival, Massachusetts, 2006
Festival of Visual Culture, Finland, 2006
Society for Visual Anthropology/American Anthropological Association Conference, San Jose, California, 2006
Monterrey International Film Festival, Mexico, 2006
Best Documentary, International Student Film Festival, Hollywood, 2006
International Festival of Ethnological Film, Serbia, 2006
National WomenÕs Studies Association Conference, Illinois, 2007
Association for Asian Studies Conference, Boston, MA, 2007
Eyes & Lenses IV - Competition of Ethnographic and Anthropologic Films, Poland, 2007
International Ethnographic Film Festival of the Royal Anthropological Institute, UK, 2007
Roving Eye Documentary Film Festival, Providence, RI, 2007
Parnü: International Film Festival, Estonia, 2007
Film South Asia 2007, Nepal
India International Women Film Festival, New Delhi, 2007

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