Kailash Satyarthi has a message for you – for all of you. March with him, learn with him, and act with him on the road to justice. He’ll take every ally he can in the fight to end child slavery, an atrocity that has haunted him and spurred him to action over the past 30 years.
Kailash is the subject and inspiration of the eponymous Kailash. This documentary, which just premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, is about the Indian activist who founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an organization dedicated to an ambitious mission: to create a child-friendly society, where all children are free from exploitation and receive free and quality education. BBA has already helped free more than 85,000 Indian children from slavery and forced labor.
BBA – and Kailash – are based in India, but their work has begun to have a global impact. Kailash received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, in part because of his tireless work to promote the cause of children’s rights at a global legislative level.
Depicting a movement this large and a problem this abstract requires a personal connection, and Director Derek Doneen wisely begins the documentary by dropping you into the most dangerous work of BBA—performing raids on factories where children are forced to work. BBA staff break locked doors, rush through buildings, and find a group of children hiding away. The children’s hesitance to rush into the embrace of BBA staff hints at the larger struggle present in Kailash’s work. BBA has to convince these children—many of whom have only known abuse from adults—to trust them.
One of the faces of the film is Karim, a young boy who had been forced to work in a factory for years. His hard-won transformation over the film is a testament to the incredible compassion and skill of the BBA staff who help restore Karim’s trust in others and his belief that he has the right to a childhood filled with bread, play, education, and love.
Lest you think this is a third-world problem, the film reminds you that children are being held as slave laborers in every city in the world, including the United States. In the post-screening Q&A, Kailash said the goal of the documentary is to create awareness, to “awaken people so the whole world will understand that civilization and slavery cannot exist together.” He specifically encouraged communities of faith and religious leaders to take the lead. He wants them to support children’s rights legislation, and to put in the time and money to avoid buying products made by slave labor.
I’ll end this review with the words of Kailash, a man with a calling we can all get behind: “Change is not knocking on your door. Change is knocking on your heart. You cannot sit quiet after watching this film.”