“Lion” is based a story that’s almost too incredible to be true. It focuses on Saroo Brierley, a man who used Google Earth to reunite with his long-lost family in India. As a five-year-old boy, Brierley got lost on a train and had to survive on the streets of Calcutta before being adopted by an Australian family.
Dev Patel plays Saroo and Nicole Kidman plays Sue, the woman who adopted him. They were recently in New York City supporting the film, and Global Moms Challenge was proud to be part of a small conversation that they had with Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF after a screening.
Kidman is a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, where her her efforts are geared towards raising awareness on the infringement of women’s human rights around the world, but she was more than happy to work on a film about children. “I focus on women’s issues, but it’s all connected – it’s about women and about children and therefore men and therefore families,” she stated. “I haven’t been in a film this emotional for a long time.”
On playing Sue Breirley, she said she shares much in common with her as a mother of adopted children. Kidman is also an adoptive mother of two of her four children. “They (the filmmakers) captured what happens with an adoptive mother and immediate sense of connection with the birth mother. This child has been brought into the world by someone else. I love this child, so I love that person… I had a feeling, an idea and sense that I was going to adopt, so (Sue and I) understand each other on that level.”
The movie is harrowing during its first chapter, with the remarkable Sunny Pawar playing a 5-year-old Saroo who is separated from his family. In the film, and in real life, the Brierleys not only adopted Saroo, but a year later, they adopted another boy named Mantosh. Saroo adjusts well to his new life; Mantosh, who had a more turbulent experience, does not as easily settle. “The thing I love about Sue and John is that they are so loving, and they’ve basically just put love into both of their boys,” Kidman noted. “Every child has a different path and the one thing you can do is love them. She’s very, very special and she knew what she was getting into. She keeps it simple. She is here to love these children.”
Patel plays the older Saroo. His character begins wondering and exploring who and where his real family are since their separation. The ramifications on his relationships with his family and girlfriend are difficult but his path is clear: he must find them. Patel was amazed by Saroo’s journey: “He’s constantly dodging predators, but then there are these beacons of light.”
U.S. Fund for UNICEF CEO, Caryl Stern contimued, “the truth is that Saroo got out quickly. Many children face far worse a fate on the streets or in orphanages. Many thousands of children who are displaced don’t end that happily. 50 million children are on the move right now, all over the world. People aren’t confronted by this fact every day, but it must be addressed.”
“Lion” makes the issue much more accessible to wider audiences. Stern called the film a “remarkable gift for the world’s children.” Its studio and producers have said that they hope the story will raise specific awareness about the 11 million-plus children who live on the streets of India, ultimately giving millions of displaced children a face; children who fall through the cracks and are at the highest risk of exploitation and abuse, often without documentation, and uncertain legal status.
Stern said that it’s important to see this film to become aware but then to go do something to help. “Use your talents. If you’re a writer, write about it and make sure people hear the children’s voices. If you’re a performer, share your gifts in projects that tell important stories. Film makers need to keep making extraordinary stories like this.”
“Lion” is a complex movie, with its profound themes of identity and our roots. It’s about truth, it’s about going home. It’s so wonderful to see a movie such as “Lion” join forces with UNICEF to ensure all children are protected, safe, and can have a childhood.
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UNICEF provides humanitarian aide to children and families in the world’s toughest situations. Donate now to help save and change children’s lives, and watch the Lion movie trailer below.