Below is a write from Phinehas Hodges, one of the screenwriters, which is a great reflection on the experience on this film.
There was a moment after the movie, when the crowd around us was done crying and gasping and holding their hands to their face, when I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of clapping. In the darkness the sound of hands beating together were bright bursts of noise all around me.
It was over. Three years and nine terabytes and Rocky’s hut, the kids, the stillness of the village at noon under the Indian sun. I think that anyone probably changes in three years of life but thinking about it I can see how the drastically the crew has been changed by this, how it will stay with us long after the lights have gone down.
Then as the clapping beat on and on I thought: it was never about us. We were just poor vessels for truth. Whatever of it we could clasp with camera and microphone we did, but as much as we had grasped, ten times over that had spilt onto the ground and was lost.
I had never been confronted with my arrogance and selfishness as I was in India. And now, in memory, I see the kids, one in particular. Subbulakshmi. I have written her letters many times that I have never sent. In them I always say some variation of the same thing: I haven’t forgotten you. I remember sitting on the concrete wall with you in the evening of the day I was to leave and giving you a cheap gold necklace from the market and wondering if you could know how you broke and remade my heart, how much I wanted to stay and be with you and protect you and help you and care for you, in a way that I have never wanted to care for anyone. How you made me forget myself, my weighty, serious self, and how in forgetting myself I found a deep peace and joy that I had never had before.
Everytime we watch the film the crew cries along with the audience. That is how I know we are vessels. John said it best: ‘It’s a memory come to life.’ That ride through the darkness, the warm night air of India, the light of the motorcycle jostling and catching on the girls face as she faded from life. That crossroads, as the train bore down in clamor, as she left us–as I felt something holy dancing on my skin, washing through me. That long night, crying in the hut, trying to remember the girl as she was when she still lived, but only seeing Subbu, not being able to see it any other way than Subbu, dead. And thinking: I would trade my life for hers. If I could give anything, it would be that. It was so strange, the urgency I felt. I whispered: ‘take it, take it.’
I don’t know who I was bargaining with in that moment. But I know I had lost all my fear, and that it was as close as I’d ever come to being truly good.
Life is a roaring river and I have often been swept along in it to my detriment. But this documentary, that time, these men, I was swept into for good, and I realize why people say there is a purpose, that things do happen for a reason. I don’t know if I can buy it yet, but I see why.
My wish for this documentary is that those who see it will be broken and remade as I was by Subbu. As I should be every day. That they will be able to see how at heart we all are the same, we all long for each other, even if the ways we show that are twisted and strange.
And as Rocky says: ‘We all need love.’