'Sound of Mumbai' bankrupts director

Sarah McCarthy borrowed money from friends, family for film

Julie Andrews' voice fills the theater with the score of "The Sound of Music," but instead of the snowy white Austrian Alps projected on the screen, audiences watching "The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical" see the blue canvas rooftops of Mumbai’s shanty towns.

The 65-minute documentary follows a group of children from the slums of Mumbai as they prepare to perform "The Sound of Music" with the Bombay Chamber Orchestra at Mumbai's prestigious National Center of Performing Arts. The children are guided and mentored by Austrian conductor Johannis Steinwender.

London-based Australian filmmaker Sarah McCarthy came upon the project through her producing partner Joe Walters, a musician who plays French horn in the Bombay Chamber Orchestra and also teaches occasionally at the Muktangan School featured in the film.

Walters suggested to make a film on the chamber orchestra, but that did not interest the filmmaker. "When I heard about that the orchestra was collaborating with the children to do a concert, it peaked my interest," she said.

The filmmaker liked the idea of songs that conjure up images of mountains and lakes juxtaposed on images of claustrophobic slums.

The film, made on a shoestring budget with a three-person crew, clearly is a labor of love. "I have bankrupt (sic) myself, my family and friends," McCarthy revealed. "I've got debts with my cameraman and post production.” McCarthy scraped together additional funds from documentary grants and television pre-sales in Holland.

The kids in the slums were bright and intelligent and they spoke English, said the filmmaker, who found the children and their families very hospitable and friendly during the doc's nine-week shoot. “Where ever we went we had kids hanging around us.”

McCarthy got clearance from the Rogers & Hammerstein estate for the music to be used in the film for festival screenings and on Dutch television broadcast only. She has not yet received clearance for the film to be shown on international television or theatrically. McCarthy’s production company is in the process of approaching Julie Andrews for her approval as well.

This is McCarthy’s third documentary. The first two, “Murderers on the Dance Floor” and Black Widow Granny,” were aired on Channel 4 and BBC1 respectively. "The Sound of Mumbai" is scheduled to screen at the Mumbai Film Festival next month.  

McCarthy herself will soon be seen on television as one of the four filmmakers being trailed at the festival by cameraman Ross Kauffman for a documentary in the works by Morgan Spurlock.
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