Untouchable

The story of an untouchable people, living with leprosy in India. This is not the way it's supposed to be.   

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In a collection of makeshift tents on the outskirts of a town far from anywhere I’d ever heard of lives a community of people who understand, deeply and personally, what Cornelius Plantinga calls ‘the vandalism of shalom’. The title of his book are my sentiments exactly: this is Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be.

These beautiful people live with a horrible disease that most don’t know still exists. But Leprosy, that bible-era skin disease, is very real for Ravinniah & the thirty, or so, families that live in his community. I first heard about them during pre-production for a series of short films I shot in India for East-West Ministries. As I learned more about their community and what the disease had done to them both physically and socially, I couldn’t ignore the rumbling in my soul or turn a blind eye to the fact that this disease had robbed them of everything, including their humanity.

The camera is an incredible tool. It has the power to put a world-view in context. It has the power to articulate an entire belief system in a way that volumes of text cannot. But asking it to heal wounds, restore stolen dignity and make touchable that which is not seemed like a tall order. 

But that’s what I hoped it could do, if only for a brief moment in time.

I went with a simple plan — to listen to their stories, earn their trust, set a light, carefully consider posture, point the camera and press the shutter. My hope was that the resulting images could, in some small measure, restore to them the dignity that is theirs as image bearers of God.

Image bearers of God — the very idea runs counter to everything they experience in daily life, nevertheless, this identity is more true than anything they experience in daily life. After spending an evening listening, lighting, posing and pressing the shutter, I went back to my hotel room, processed all the images and printed them out.

The next morning, we returned to the village, photographs in hand. I don’t know if they will every fully understand what I intended to communicate, but I hope when they see it they will remember to hope in the day Shalom is restored and everything is put back to the way it’s supposed to be, because though they remain untouchable, this hope does not.

 


Client: East-West Ministries

Writer/Director/Producer/Editor: Trey Hill

Director of Photography: Trey Hill

Score: Moby


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