Sheila Nevins knows how to pick them. At HBO2, where documentaries are her domain, so to speak, she reigns supreme. But "don't call me lucky," she cautioned members of New York Women in Film and Television at a special breakfast, lest anyone might envy her this dream job. To get to this place is a lot of work. Part of that work is selecting films for HBO2 to produce as she did with the Paradise Lost trilogy, sending a film team to West Memphis to see what they can find out about a sensational murder story. And sometimes it is just seeing a film she wished she had made as in the case of The Sound of Mumbai to air on HBO2 on November 23.
We are deeply in love with this documentary, said Nevins introducing a screening at the recent DOC NYC festival. Directed by Sarah McCarthy, an Australia-born filmmaker who now resides in London, The Sound of Mumbai follows a class of children in that city made famous in Slumdog Millionaire as the group rehearses a performance of The Sound of Music. Imagine the layers. A film set in India recreating a classic American Rogers & Hammerstein musical set in Austria. In the heat of lower class neighborhoods of Mumbai, "Climb Every Mountain" takes on new meaning.
The film has an unlikely star, a boy named Ashish who sings with such passion, he enflames the jealousies of others especially his classmate Mangesh. Craning his neck to reach the high notes, Ashish's fervor is inspiring and heart breaking as the film limns the limits of his vocal success. "I am not self-conscious. I am confident," Ashish intones in the mirror, a mantra that gets him through. Yes, he plays the role of a lifetime but will not be rewarded by some rich patron swooping in, ensuring a guaranteed education and better life. At least not yet.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.