Meet the multi-faceted Sasha Rainbow, a storyteller, filmmaker, artist, and the visionary behind the lens of the award-winning short documentary film, ‘Kamali’, which has recently been nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award in the category of Best British Short Film.
“I believe that stories find you,” Sasha says, “There are stories on every corner, you just have to have the intention to find them,”
Sasha’s own story began at the age of five when her little sister was born, and little Sasha won her very own camcorder through a competition advertised on the wrappings of the baby food. On her 16th birthday, Sasha asked for a real camera, one with which she would spend a majority of the next few years documenting her life.
“I come from New Zealand and didn’t know you could have an actual job in film. It was something magical. It wasn’t until I became a director that I remembered all these moments where film had been part of the fabric of my life.”
A storyteller at heart, Sasha tells of her journey to discovering her voice, and of her personal history, and how it influences and defines her work. The daughter of a refugee and a first-generation New Zealander, Sasha talks of her fascination with the idea of home, and of striving to break destructive cycles- ideals that are reflected in the message of her work.
Sasha began her journey into the world of documentary filmmaking with the intention to write a film about the plight of the Roma (Gypsies) in Europe. Though she admits she still has not made that film, she explains that the journey took her down paths she would have never imagined walking.
It was just so that in the year 2016, following her belief that all good stories seek out the storyteller, Sasha found herself on Indian shores, shooting a music video for British Band Wild Beasts’ song Alpha Female. At the time, Sasha had been exploring a documentary on the burgeoning female skate movement in India and had been interviewing subjects, when she came across a photograph of a little six-year-old, barefoot girl, skating down a ramp clad in a little dress. She knew immediately that she must speak with the girl. When she finally tracked Kamali and her mother, Suganthi down, the pair left their village for the very first time, making their way to Bangalore to meet with the filmmaker.
“When Kamali arrived at the skatepark, her eyes lit up- she’d never seen such a big skatepark. Her energy was magical; we all came to life again.” Sasha says, recalling an early interaction with the young girl.
Kamali’s story, and that of her mother Suganthi’s bravery and struggle resonated with the young filmmaker, and an idea was born. It was so that Sasha’s mantra proved true, and the story found the storyteller. In the year 2019, Kamali was released to great critical reception and acclaim. A tale of unbounded ambition, courage, and empowerment, the Oscar longlisted documentary film has been making the rounds of the film festival circuit, receiving high praise from audiences and critics alike, winning the Best Documentary Award at the Atlanta Film Festival, and being nominated for a BAFTA award.
“It’s like I am looking at myself when I look at Kamali.” Says Suganthi, Kamali’s mother, in the film, “When I was a child I believed I would be courageous,”
Set in a remote seaside village in Tamil Nadu, Kamali tells the story of nine-year-old skating sensation Kamali Moorthy, and of her mother, Suganthi’s incredible struggle to free her daughter from the weight of the very societal traditions of fearmongering and patriarchy that robbed her of her own childhood.
“It was really representative of the massive change happening in India right now, and how it can take one person breaking a cycle to create major positive change all around them,” Sasha explains.
Navigating a foreign culture, with its own alien traditions, customs, and expectations, and while battling barriers of language and the constraints of time and funding, Sasha and her crew found themselves living Kamali’s story and falling in love with Suganthi and her daughter in a manner that transcended what they had set out to do. Sasha explains that she considers the young girl and her family to be her ‘Indian family’, and fondly reminisces about the time they spent together while filming.
Kamali’s story has inspired countless lives across the globe and is on its way to touching many more. As we discuss the impact of the film’s success, Sasha reveals the profound impact the journey has had upon her own perspective.
“Making Kamali and seeing Suganthi’s bravery and vulnerability has inspired me to start writing about my own personal story, something I’m currently working on as a feature film, called ‘One Degree, Of Separation’. I felt if I was to have a right to share other people’s stories I should face my own.”
Kamali represents a new future for the Indian girl child, and for those who are still bound by the shackles of archaic traditions and underlined societal patriarchy. When asked of the one thing she hopes to convey through the film Sasha reveals a hope for a brighter future.
“The film reflects the massive generational change happening now in India and throughout the world. I hope for it to inspire any woman suffering in an abusive relationship to have the confidence to walk away. I hope it shows to any parents bringing up their boys and girls differently, that allowing girls to play and follow their dreams, can change the world.”
TheVibe echoes Sasha’s sentiment that stories and storytellers have the ability to change lives and to make the world a better place. We congratulate Sasha Rainbow on the astounding success of Kamali, and on her BAFTA award nomination.
Watch the film here!
All images used in this article are courtesy of Sasha Rainbow.
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