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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rooting for Roona is an emotional documentary about a young Indian girl who is born with a severe birth defect, with upsetting scenes and themes throughout. Following the journey of Roona Begum -- born with hydrocephalus, which has caused her head to swell -- as she undergoes various operations, the subject material is intense yet also inspiring. Despite her tender years, Roona shows incredible bravery, as do her parents who remain hopeful that their daughter will eventually be able to have a "normal life." The documentary shows close-ups of the operations, which includes incisions being made in Roona's head to drain fluid. She is seen with bloody wounds and scars on her head. The courage shown by Roona's parents is striking, especially that of Roona's mother, Fatima. However, the film also shows the strain and pressure placed on their marriage, with a heated argument involving an aggressive threat. Spoiler: Heartbreakingly, Roona dies and her lifeless body is seen laid down in her home, while Fatima weeps uncontrollably over her. Roona is then wrapped in a sheet and is seen being buried in the ground. Due to the distressing subject matter and some upsetting scenes, families should consider how emotionally prepared your children are before watching this powerful documentary. The film is dubbed into English.
What's the story?
ROOTING FOR ROONA tells the powerful story of a young Indian girl that was born with a severe birth defect that has caused her head to swell. Documenting Roona and her parents' journey as she undergoes countless operations to give her a "normal life," it is both inspiring and heartbreaking.
Is it any good?
This is such an intimate portrayal of a family dealing with a child's illness that it sometimes feels invasive. Yet directors Pavitra Chalam and Akshay Shankar manage to navigate this tricky path and deserve praise for shining a light on something that affects the entire world, but which has the biggest impact on underdeveloped and developing countries, such as Roona's India. Shot over a period of five years in the north-east Indian village of Tripura, Roona -- born with hydrocephalus that has caused her head to swell -- and her parents, Fatima and Abdul, provide inspiration in what is ultimately a desperate situation. Fatima in particular shows remarkable courage -- as well as honesty -- as she talks about the "normal life" that she hopes Roona will one day have. It's testament to the filmmakers how comfortable the family became to allow their most personal thoughts and moments recorded on camera.
Despite being just 41 minutes long, Rooting for Roona is packed with moments of heartbreak. Even the moments we're not directly privy to leave an emotional punch. In one scene, Abdul recounts how people told them that Roona's illness was a "punishment for their sins." There are moments when you wonder if the cameras should have been switched off -- it's hoped that the family had final sign-off as to what footage is used. But there's no denying that this is a powerful documentary that by the end, if you're not already, will have you reaching for the tissues and giving your children a huge hug.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how they felt watching Rooting for Roona. What emotions did you feel? Did you find it just sad or also inspiring? Will sad movies make my kid depressed?
Why do you think the filmmakers made the documentary? Do you think it was OK for them to film Roona and her family at some of the more intimate moments in the documentary? How can documentaries help tell stories that need to be told? What other documentaries have you seen that have affected how you felt about something?
What do you think would have happened if the photos of Roona hadn't gone viral? How do you think Roona's journey might have differed if she had been born in the U.S., for example?
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