MISSING [ vr ]
Every year in India, 1.8 million girls are abducted and trafficked into the sex trade.
A child goes missing every 8 minutes.
The town of Kultoli awakens every morning to a living nightmare. Almost every other household here has had one of their girls go missing. Located just two hours from West Bengal’s capital city of Kolkata which is home of Asia’s biggest red light district, the small village of Kultoli is just one of many rural areas traumatized by a growing global horror.
WHERE THE PROJECT BEGAN
— A public Art Project —
Leena Kejriwal is a Kolkata-based artist and activist whose latest project, M.I.S.S.I.N.G, places the epidemic of juvenile sex trafficking front and center, making the issue impossible to ignore. By claiming public space as her canvas and enlisting the community as her collaborators, Leena’s aim is to force people to face up to this problem, making everyone involved stakeholders in an ongoing campaign to confront these crimes.
Life-like silhouetted stencils of young girls have been pasted across hundreds of walls–in the major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, and Kolkata... and in the thick of the trafficking belt in smaller towns like Kultoli. Larger than life metal castings of the missing girls silhouettes have been installed against the biggest urban skylines of the country, evoking black holes cut out of the sky. The most recent addition to the project is a role-playing mobile game that puts the players in the shoes of the victim, allowing them to experience what a missing person goes through when she is trafficked. The game won best indie game of 2016 at India’s biggest gaming forum.
A VILLAGE OF MISSING GIRLS
— A Documentary Feature film —
Miriam Chandy Menacherry is an award winning documentary filmmaker based in Mumbai, India. She came across Leena’s work in 2015, and soon decided that it should be the subject matter for her next documentary feature, VILLAGE OF MISSING GIRLS.
Miriam’s film investigates an artist fully immersing herself in the lives of her subjects, spending an equal amount of time as an activist, fighting to help the girls she identifies as high risk escape the vicious cycle. The film is an exploration of art that flows between the hands of the artist and the subjects, which in the process, becomes transformative for both. Leena’s artistic journey becomes a means to explore and expose the many forces at play in the complex ecosystem of the global sex slavery.
The film is currently in production.
— An Immersive Documentary Short —
MISSING [vr] is an interactive virtual reality film that places viewers within the solemn homes left behind by the missing girls of Kultoli, a small village outside Kolkata, India, which is home to Asia's largest red light district.
— Artistic Statement —
As we started work on the documentary, A VILLAGE OF MISSING GIRLS, we recognized that a peculiar issue kept arising. The enormous scale and complex nature of the global sex industry often triggers defeatist-ridden apathy instead of desired action. Feeling far removed from these realities, we typically respond to these crimes by comparing our lives to those affected. We distance ourselves from the issue by reassuring ourselves that this could never happen in ‘our world’. We go home and hug our kids extra tight as we tuck them into their beds. We feel #blessed for the lives we lead.
To counter this form of moral paralysis, we have conceived a companion piece to our traditional documentary feature, that will tackle the issue from an experiential level. The goal is to further humanize the subject matter by immersing viewers into a virtual world that is seemingly far from their personal realities—a world that would otherwise be difficult to access, let alone experience intimately. But a world once experienced, may not seem so
distant after all.
However, the novelty of complete immersion alone isn’t enough. While Virtual Reality has yet to live up to its claim of being the ‘ultimate empathy machine’, we believe that MISSINGVR offers a unique opportunity to experiment with and stretch the creative possibilities of the medium. As creators from this part of the world, we can count on a heightened degree of access, which in turn will allow us to share the stories from a much more authentic, ’lived-in’ and poetic space, something entirely different from the literalist, staged applications typical of most 360 video documentaries.
Morning sun hitting the mud huts of a small village in West Bengal may not be the first thing you visualize when told of the hideous sex crimes of a $150 billion trafficking industry. However, a hypnotic immersion into an intimate, interactive interior of the real home of a missing girl can immediately curb the occidental prejudices typically surrounding stories of sex trafficking. MISSINGVRleads us to experience absence, loss and grief in a personal way, at the victim’s level, without judgement or forced propriety. It is from this place of shared loss and grief, that we can credibly begin the journey towards meaningful and impactful action.
MIRIAM CHANDY MENACHERRY
Co-director & Co-producer
Miriam Chandy Menacherry is a writer, director, producer, based in Mumbai, India. With several international co-productions under her belt, her socially relevant brand of filmmaking has won her critical acclaim. Her documentary feature “Rat Race” won the 2010 Mipdoc Co-prod Challenge at Cannes, and premiered at IDFA 2011. Her newest documentary feature is
“Lyari Notes” which was supported by the IDFA-Bertha Fund, Alter Cine Foundation, CBA Worldview Fund and co-produced by Al Jazeera International. It showed at over 20 international film festivals including IDFA & Sheffield.
Miriam worked as a correspondent with CNBC for two years, before founding her Mumbai-based production house, Filament Pictures, in 2005. She has since primarily focused on character driven factual narratives exploring social realities that have aired on BBC World,
Al Jazeera International and the National Geographic Channel.
Co-director & Co-producer
Sheena Matheiken is an Irish born, Indian raised, Brooklyn based filmmaker & designer who works across the realms of film & experiential media. She is a principal at Bricolagista! a Brooklyn based film company that she co-runs with her partner, Maximón Monihan. Sheena produced Bricolagista's award winning narrative debut feature "La Voz De Los Silenciados" which traveled to over 30 international film festivals and picked up several awards along the way.
Previously, Sheena was the creative director of experiential design at The Mill, the world-class post production house behind the award winning virtual reality film on solitary confinement, "6x9". She also worked as a creative director at FakeLove, a digital agency and VR studio that was recently acquired by the New York Times. Most recently, she served as the Chief Experience Officer at New Lab — an 80,000 square foot interdisciplinary space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard supporting entrepreneurs working in emerging technologies like Robotics, Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, and connected devices.
Director of Photography
Leena Kejriwal is a photographer and installation artist based in Kolkata, India. She has been brand ambassador for Fuji, India and an artist in residence in France under the Indo French cultural exchange program. Her seminal work “Calcutta: Repossessing the City” was published as a best seller book by Om Books International in 2007. Her photographic installations have been shown nationwide and across Europe and the Middle East.
Leena's work reflects her preoccupation with human trafficking, which has found a new language in "MISSING", her most recent public art project that has grown into a nationwide cross media campaign. The street stencils of MISSING have gone viral since 2015, with the public actively participating in the creation of the iconic girl silhouettes on the walls of their cities. Leena also developed a role-playing mobile game that that allows players to experience what a missing girl goes through when she is trafficked. The game won NASSCOM's Indie Game of the year in 2016.
MISSING [VR] is currently in preproduction and is scheduled for production in 2018.
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