After discovering the Art for Impact Film Competition – a San Francisco-based contest that asks creatives to produce films that tackle the subject of mental health – actress Sohm Kapila and former Television Workshop director, Ian Smith, have joined forces to create The Problem With Kaldeep...
Where did the idea for the film come from?
Ian: After discovering the Art for Impact festival, Sohm’s initial thoughts were about looking at depression in young people, and in particular the statistics related to it for young Asians.
Sohm: We read an article in the Indian Express called The Kids Are Not Alright, which was about the number of suicides increasing in India because of the pressure that Indian kids have over getting great grades.
Ian: That was our starting point, but a much more interesting story emerged about the carers in those families, which we felt was an unexplored area.
Briefly outline the plot…
Ian: It takes place in a school in between lessons. A young teacher has set a poetry exercise. She reads one child’s poem and makes the assumption, from her own experience, that it reveals a degree of serious depression within this child. She makes almost a false diagnosis, and then sees the rest of the poem. From this she realises that the boy isn’t depressed, but it’s to do with his brother. The teacher is left to reflect on what this means about her and her illness, how people in her family had to deal with her illness, and what the effects would have been for them. It’s in the last two lines of the poem, “Who hears me? Who sees me?”
What kind of conversations do you hope this film will start?
Ian: It has an unresolved ending. It feels like a PSHE lesson film, where you watch the film and debate afterwards. It feels to me like the debate one should be having is really the support within education, or society, for the carers. This applies to young carers themselves. The debate for young carers of people with physical difficulties is out there, but to extend that to mental illness is equally legitimate.
Sohm: If you go onto any website aimed at helping people suffering with mental illness, you’ll always see the section of what to do if you know someone who is suffering, but it doesn’t really help you if you’ve been dealing with these things for many years. How does one cope with the effects it has on your own mental wellbeing? It’s tough when you love someone and they’re going through something and you don’t understand why.
It’s taken a very short time to create…
Sohm: About five to six weeks. Ian and I, although we know each other through the Television Workshop, have never worked together before. One of the toughest things was co-writing. We wrote it separately, and then came together and fought over it. Ian wrote the poem, though, and I think that was what made the piece work. It gave it a structure.
Ian: When we were talking about the story, I felt that in an English class, this would be the best way for him to get his feeling out in a coded way. It’s a codified cry for help.
Why did you use the form of a short film, rather than a piece of theatre?
Ian: As a first time film director, I wanted to keep the film contained, so having it within a classroom worked. With short films, you try and find a moment in time – it’s like a little haiku, in a way. The key moment within this is where two people with differing viewpoints come together. One of them emerges from that with a changed perception. I like the fact that it’s as short as it is. You have to really work at what you’re trying to say – you have to get the audience into that world, make your point and hit the punchline very quickly.
Are the two young actors from the Television Workshop?
Ian: Yes, they did a great job. The young actors, in particular, were the heart of this. It was very interesting working with Kiran. I’ve known him since he was in the under eleven group at the Workshop. Going through the script with him, he was initially very resistant to emotionally letting go. On the day, we couldn’t stop him crying. Kiran is someone who I think exhibits a real amount of performance intelligence.
Sohm: He stayed in character pretty much all day. From the moment he sat down in that chair, he didn’t leave that state of mind.
The Problem With Kaldeep has been entered into festivals including the London Indian Film Festival, London Asian Festival 2017, and Sundance Festival.
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