Documentary traces Kailash Satyarthi's work on rescuing child labourers

Dec 02, 2018, 09:26 IST | Debjani Paul

The Price of Free, tracing the work of anti-child labour crusader Kailash Satyarthi, is heart-wrenching and uplifting

Documentary traces Kailash Satyarthi's work on rescuing child labourers
The Price of Free traces the life and work of Kailash Satyarthi

We dive right into the thick of the action within the first minute of The Price of Free, as Nobel prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi and the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) take us along on a raid at a workshop using child labour. The activists break open locked doors and turn the place upside down in search of trafficked children, who are cowering under furniture or trembling under piles of raw materials.

The documentary, directed by Derek Doneen and produced by Davis Guggenheim (maker of He Named Me Malala), traces Satyarthi's life's work, rescuing thousands of children from dingy, stuffy workshops, where they make cosmetics, jewellery and toys they'll never get to play with.

It should be a moment of triumph, but the kids don't look happy to be found. Slowly, and heartbreakingly, you realise that the children don't believe they've been rescued. Sold into slavery by their own families, tortured and abused by their 'masters', these children are unwilling to trust again — they're just waiting for the other shoe to drop, to figure out who is going to betray them again.

"The police caught us and brought us here," says the youngest child, Karim, when a social worker asks why he isn't happy at the rescue home. His face is scrunched up, red with the effort of holding the tears in. The documentary is heart-wrenching, but also uplifting in turns. It is the most fulfilling experience to watch Karim open up over the course of the documentary, making plans to become a doctor, and leading the other children in slogans demanding roti, ghar, padhai, pyaar.

The Price of Free tells stories that are far removed from our lives and yet feel intensely personal. One moment, you're secure in the belief that you've never participated in child labour, and the next, you realise that you've unknowingly been a part of this world all along. For instance, this moment was when one of the kids, Sanjeet, says he worked at a talc powder factory, and names a brand that is too familiar for comfort. He shows the scars on his face where hot powder scalded him, and one is wracked with guilt.

The 87-minute film also follows Satyarthi on his latest mission: finding Sonu, a young boy, who was trafficked to Delhi after his father sold him for Rs 2,000. Several activists put their lives at risk in the search, but by the end of the documentary, there's still no sign of the boy. There are several moments like this that will make your heart sink, but like Satyarthi, you must watch till the very end. Go on, we dare you not to cry.

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