I had a great afternoon yesterday talking to a group of school kids about the power of food at the TIFF Kids International Film Festival. I was delighted to be a followup speaker after the wonderful new Indian film called Stanley’s Tiffin Box, written and directed by Amole Gupte.
The film is the story of a remarkable little boy who goes to a Catholic school in Mumbai where the children bring elaborate and delicious lunches to school (in tall stacked tiffin boxes). Nobody seems to know it—or do anything about it—but Stanley doesn’t have any lunch. The other children are glad to share with Stanley, who is a marvellous storyteller and friend, but a mean teacher (who wants the food they bring himself!) puts a halt to their joyful buffets. He tells Stanley that he can’t come to school if he doesn’t bring his own lunch.
The result is a film that is beautiful, funny and sad in equal measure. Stanley’s tiredness and irritability as a result of his hunger, his shame about not having food when everyone else does and the pleasure the boys take in sharing their meal make it especially poignant. The film plays again at TIFF (check the schedule for showtimes) but I hope it gets a North American distributor because it’s a film kids everywhere should see.
As the children were being let out of the theatre, one boy stopped and talked to me. He was shaking his head. It’s just not right, he said, that we have so much—too much food even!—when other people have nothing.