neel menon

Neel Menon is a 14-year-old student and filmmaker from Mumbai. (photo provided)

A 14-year-old multitalented Indian student’s film on the critical subject of gender equality is gaining worldwide recognition.

After being felicitated at various film festivals, Neel Menon’s latest documentary, “Girls Should Stay At Home,” has now won the Best Documentary award at the prestigious San Diego International Kids Film Festival.

The film was made in February 2020 as part of an individual project at his school and was exhibited through a network of NGOs. It has won awards at the Accolade Global Film Competition, Kids First Film Festival, and Druk International Film Festival, and has been part of the official selection at the Boston International Kids Film Festival, Student Los Angeles Film Festival and the NY Young Filmmakers Festival. The film has been entered into at least ten more international festivals.

The film has also been picked up for worldwide exhibition on the Planet Classroom network.

Menon, who has been making films for the past five to six years, has dipped his young toes in versatile genres: from stop motion films based on superheroes to fiction stories to public service ads to documentaries.

Menon writes the scripts and screenplay, does the research, shoots the films on his Canon 5D, edits them on Adobe Premier and composes the music, according to a press release. He is also a skilled tabla and percussion player and is part of a blues rock band. They do Led Zeppelin covers and original blues compositions.

“‘Girls Should Stay At Home’ began its life as a ‘Service As Action’ project at my school, the Oberoi International School in Mumbai. We were told to pick one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and I chose gender equality, as this was a topic I had not really explored creatively yet. My teachers were good enough to give me the freedom to use film as a medium.”

Menon added that from the beginning, he knew he wanted to make his second documentary around the important subject.

“I also chose to create a documentary because I knew it would give the film that sense of rawness and reality that is needed to fight a problem as real-world as this. Initially, the idea was to create a film telling the stories of 5-6 women in India, breaking social barriers in terms of both gender, and profession,” he said. “I began looking online, for contact numbers and emails, and eventually selected three women whose stories could inspire others globally.”

The research and shooting process took about two months to complete. “Overall, my focus was to tell these three stories of these amazing women to inspire others to start telling theirs,” said Menon, who is currently working on a public service commercial about hunger eradication.

Watch the film here:

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