‘The Invisible Humans’ has been selected for the second edition of WHO Health For All Film Festival

Filmmaker Aaron Mathew’s motoring enthusiast octogenarian grandfather AM Chacko’s plans, pre-COVID-19, included buying an SUV. “So when he told me he wanted to sell his car, in July 2020, it struck a chord,” says Aaron. “He didn’t see the point in owning a car. The pandemic has changed the lives of senior citizens.”

Kochi-based Aaron, an engineer, studied in Pune and worked as copywriter in an ad agency before launching his ad film production company Bun Omelette in Kochi. He has been assistant director for Malayalam films such as Ramaleela and Irupathiyonnam Nootandu. His short film, The Invisible Humans has been shortlisted for the WHO’s ‘Health For All’ Film Festival. One of a handful of Indian films, it is the only one in the Health Emergencies category.

The film was chosen from 1,200-odd entries from various countries. Winners will be announced in May, in a ceremony which is scheduled to be streamed live.

“Did you know around 17% of the population in Kerala comprises senior citizens? They have been confined within the four walls of their homes, unable to get out due to the pandemic. Our grandparents have become ‘invisible’.”

Aaron’s first hand experience of his octogenarian grandparents living alone in Tiruvalla during lockdown also contributed to the genesis of the film. The film captures the sense of confinement a senior citizen feels when living alone, moving from one room to the next. Also the spaces left vacant by the absence of these ‘magical beings’ as Aaron calls them.

“I call them that because that is what grandparents are, they add magic to our lives.”

Casting was easy, he got his grandmother, Aleyamma Chacko, to act. “She is 88. This is her first time in front of the camera…she was a natural. There were hardly any retakes. She would ask what each shot was about, she wanted clear answers. When I told her that the film was selected for this festival, she didn’t get too excited… my grandparents said, ‘okay!’”

The film was shot over two days, in August 2020, cinematographer Sharan Velayudhan Nair’s visual sense helped set the mood and capture the story. “We had footage but had to keep the duration at under three minutes.” The voice over for the film is by director Sathyan Anthikkad.

The short was first released as a campaign film for Deepavali (2020) and uploaded on YouTube. “It resonated with people, many of whom started calling and speaking to their grandparents.”

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