Oriya/English/Hindi with English subtitles
Director: Gemma Atwal
Marathon Boy is a documentary that presents five years in the life of Budhia Singh, a young slum kid who was adopted by Baranchi Das, a man who owns a Judo school and orphanage. When Das discovers that Budhia, at age three, has incredible stamina and is a gifted runner, he enters him into marathons, prompting Budhia's rise as one of India's national treasures. The government and child welfare authorities accuse Baranchi of abusing the child through exploitation, and the film becomes an examination of exploitation vs. free-will and ambition, and whether a young boy is capable of making decisions that could affect his health and well-being.
Marathon Boy is a riveting film. There were times when I forgot I was watching a documentary because it played out like a noir thriller at times, pervasive with greed, politics, power and even murder. This is director Gemma Atwal's first film and it is first-rate. She captures amazing footage spanning five years, and presents a thoroughly researched product while remaining objective; she presents all sides,and then hands it over to the audience to decide for themselves. She was granted amazing access to everyone and captured some very candid footage, including exchanges among people who knew they were on camera, but continued to discuss plans that were blatantly exploitative and harmful. Atwal simply pointed the camera and soaked everything in.
An incredibly thought-provoking film that stayed with me for hours after I saw it, Marathon Boy is a "should see" film that would be of interest to a wide audience; I highly recommend it.
MFF Ballot Rating: 4 out of 5