Sold into child slavery at the age of six by her impoverished family, Urmila Chaudhary’s life story is one of both pain and perseverance. It is the latter that anchors Susan Gluth’s inspirational film Urmila: My Memory is My Power. After enduring almost twelve years of slavery, Urmila has dedicated her life to helping to free the other children in Nepal trapped in similar situations. Driven by her desire to get an education, so that she can eventually get a law degree, and not willing to give up her activism work, Urmila struggles with balancing the demanding nature of both of those ventures.
Recounting her experiences, as well as confronting her parents whose financial constraints sent her down the dark path to begin with, Urmila paints a picture that is far too common in Nepal. One in which the poor are taken advantage of to the point where their children become prey for the wealthy to ravish. In one revealing moment, Gluth’s camera catches a tense struggle on a bus where Urmila and a fellow activist try to free a young girl, clearly a child slave, from a woman who claims to have done nothing wrong. It is a battle that Urmila has probably been involved in numerous times, but the sense of urgency feels just as dire in that moment as it must have been when Urmila made her own escape.
While the government in Nepal would have the world believe that child slavery is practically abolished, as of only 2015 mind you, Gluth’s film shows that the battle is far from won. Urmila: My Memory is My Power may lack the visual flourishes of other more recent activist related documentaries, however, Gluth more than makes up with it in the film’s overall message. She reminds us that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the issue of child slavery occurring in both Nepal and the world at large.
Sunday, May 8, 4:00 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.