I’m Gonna Tell God Everything, Pre-Review: May peace be on earth
A special screening of the award-winning film – ‘I’m Gonna Tell God Everything’, produced by Jay Patel and Abhishek Dudhaiya, and presented by Sanjay Dutt, was held earlier this week at the PVR Icon Multiplex, Andheri, Mumbai. Among the invitees were film journalists and actress Mandakini, of the film Ram Teri Ganga Maili fame, who came with her son, a young man who is about a foot taller than her. She was there to support the cause of the film, she said.
Jay Patel, Mandakini and Abhishek Dudhaiya
Present on the occasion were music composer Rashid Khan, Pawan Shankar, Lin Laishram and Jahangir Khan, who were deeply moved by the film that is based on the real story of a 5-year-old boy from Syria, who died in hospital, during treatment for third degree burns, which he received during the civil war in Syria. This little boy’s last words were very touching, “I’m Gonna Tell God Everything.” The 20-minute short film, based on true events, left many in the audience speechless.
A video of Sanjay Dutt was shown before the screening, in which he launched the poster of the film and said that there is a need for peace in the world, and this is the very message that the film conveys. Sanjay was one of the stars of Bhuj: The Pride of India (2021), produced (with Ajay Devgn) and directed by Abhishek Dudhaiya.
I’m Gonna Tell God Everything is co-produced by Abhishek Dudhaiya. He said that women and children are the most affected by war, although they have nothing to do with the war, adding, “The film is based on true events, I was moved by the last words of a child, and so we decided to tell his story, through a short film.”
Winner of the Best Short Film award at the Norway Film Festival and the Best Independent Film at the Indian Film Festival, Prague, ‘I’m Going to Tell God Everything’ is written by Katherine King and produced by Jay Patel. This award winning short film also had the honour of being selected for a special screening at the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), in Goa.
Producer Jay Patel said, “I see the world as one big community, and the art of story-telling can connect people with one another. I want to tell stories that haven’t been heard before. Many have tears in their eyes at the end of the film. I will raise such issues in the world through the film.”
Abhishek Dudhaiya announced that the film will be released on YouTube on October 2, on the occasion of Gandhiji’s birthday, the very embodiment of the ideal of non-violence, and a peace messenger. He did not want to make any money from the film, and therefore decided to show it free of cost on YouTube, rather than sell the rights to any TV channel or any OTT platform.”
Jay Patel, and Indian-American investor and philanthropist is the cousin brother of Paresh Ghelani, and the two grew up together. Paresh was Sanjay Dutt’s best friend, and was portrayed by Vicky Kaushal is the Sanjay Dutt, bio-pic, Sanju. When he heard the story from Katherine King, he was deeply moved, and approached his friend Abhishek. That is how the film took shape. Sanjay Dutt extended his support, as did R. Madhavan and Randeep Hooda, who are a pals of Jay. In a way, it is the first Hollywood film made by an American-Indian.
A film of this nature triggers tears and one has to distance oneself while writing a review, albeit a short one. There is a clear narrative about a nuclear family, consisting of a man (Adam?), his wife (Amira?), his daughter and her younger brother, a five-year-old. They are a happy family, living in Aleppo, Syria. When the boy, Youssef, plays with ants and could possibly harm or kill them, his mother tells him that the ants will complain to God if he harms them.
Given the terrible war situation in Syria, the man reports the events, possibly through social media. He could even be a journalist, but that is not specified. After repeated warnings to lay-off, he is attacked one day by armed militants, who kill him, his wife and his daughter brutally, within their home. The son, Youssef, who hides from view, escapes. But his escape is meaningless, as soon, the house is burnt down, causing third-degree burns to the child. He is taken to a hospital, but with no supplies, the hospital gives up on him, and a nurse tells him he is going to die. That is when he utters the words, which form the title of the film, probably inspired by the incident when he was playing with the ants.
Docu-dramas, especially in the short film format, are difficult to make. Firstly, there is a resource crunch. If it is a war background movie, you will either have to spend a fortune recreating the action or use stock footage. This film has obviously settled for the latter option, but used only limited stock shots. Next, in this case, you are not expecting any revenue. But you still need to make a decent film, and a decent film it is. I’m Gonna Tell God Everything might sound a childish intention, and that is what it is, exactly. Coming from an adult, it might have sounded funny. It is good that the film does not take sides, for the need of the hour and the thrust of the film is to focus on atrocities, not the geo-political conflict.
We know little about director Dev Pinn aka Vasu Pinnamaraju, who is based in Los Angeles. This is his third short/documentary film, as director. Pinn has yet to make a feature. The current film is well-directed, except it appears incredible that a five-year-old boy, with third degree burns, sits up and talks almost normally with the nurse. War-like ambience is well recreated.
Then, the casting is extremely important. And here, they have scored. Vivaan Bisoi as the boy with a message for God is a splendid choice. Though he must be Indian, he can easily be accepted as a Syrian Christian. Others on screen include Roman Mitichyan as a Militant Leader, Hailey Winslow as Nurse Lily, Faruk Amireh as a Rebel Leader, Zein Khleif as Nurse Maya, Essam Ferris as Adam and Nour Bitar as Amira. Writer Katherine King, a veteran actress herself, four of whose feature films are scheduled to be released in 2022, doubles-up as Dr. Lisa, and producer Jay Patel dons the doctor’s coat and a stethoscope to play Dr. Mitul Trivedi. There is another man in the cast of Indian origin, Mudit Sachdev as Dr. Pinakin Shah.
Not much is known or covered in India about the Syrian civil war, with Russia supporting the government while America backing the rebels. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have died since the conflict began 2011. If the film sensitises Indian and international audiences about the war that has created the largest migrant population in history, it would have served its purpose. That it will be shown on 2nd October, which happens to be the birthday of Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, independent India’s founding father and a world apostle of peace, is only in the fitness of things.
It might have been a good idea to show the statistics about the war in the beginning, at least partially, so that one is drawn into the film with a hint of what is to come. Since this is not a suspense drama, that would cause no harm. Some more, detailed statistics could have been kept for before the end credits roll.
Don’t expect a masterpiece, but see the film, if only to appreciate what good times we live in, in this part of the world. And spare a thought for Syrians. On a recent trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan, I came across destitute refugee Syrian women, begging for food and alms. It caused me deep anguish. May peace be on earth.
(With Inputs from moviesfoundonline and filmfestivals)
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