Watch Over Me
SWITZERLAND, GERMANY, INDIA / 2021 / Hindi / B&W / DCP / 92 min
Director, Script: Farida Pacha
Photography: Lutz Konermann
Editing: Katharina Fiedler
Sound: Pratik Biswas
Sound Design: Florian Eidenbenz
Music: Dürbeck & Dohmen
Color Grading, VFX: René Da Rold
Producers: Lutz Konermann, Hans Robert Eisenhauer, Farida Pacha
Production Company, Source: Leafbird Films
A team of three women—a doctor, a nurse, and a counselor—who work in home-based palliative care, which is not yet widely recognized in India. Working independently of the hospitals, they rush through New Delhi, responding to phone calls for help. The camera captures at close range their sincere gazes, as they direct their attention to patients divulging their pain in words or gestures, or persevere in their conversations with the patients’ families, that they may calmly accept the reality that their loved ones are passing steadily away before their very eyes. This film, which depicts the precious time spent with family in the face of inevitable loss, is enveloped in gentle hues of black and white.
[Director’s Statement] After completing film school in the US, I returned home to India to find myself taking care of my sick parents. And while the following six years turned out to be the most harrowing and traumatic period of my life, looking back now, I can say with certainty that they were also the source of great insight. I learned about suffering and the possibility to rise above it, I learned about helplessness, guilt and love. To this day I am grateful that I was with my parents at home when they took their last breath, and glad that they were not alone.
The process of accompanying the dying in their journey towards death was a common experience for people even a generation before us. But in the last decades mortality has become essentially a medical experience. Death itself has moved away from the home to the hospital. It is in this context that I find the work of palliative care workers so inspiring and significant. These teams, with their compassion, their expertise and the time they invest, help the patients and their families to be prepared mentally and emotionally for what is coming, so that the patients can die in peace at home surrounded by their loved ones. By sharing their burden, by not looking the other way, they affirm our humanity.
The stories you will see in this film may make you sad, but I hope that they will also comfort and inspire you, and make you less afraid of facing the inevitable. As long as we do not avert our gaze from the dying, a good death can be a possibility for us all.
National Award winning documentary filmmaker, Farida Pacha was born in Mumbai in 1972 and studied filmmaking at Southern Illinois University, USA. Her debut feature documentary, My Name is Salt, has screened at over 80 festivals and won 34 awards including the main prizes at IDFA, Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Madrid and Mumbai film festivals. Interested in exploring the human condition, Farida approaches reality in a poetic and exploratory way. She relies on a distinctive observational style to tell intimate stories that slowly unfold over time. Her films include the shorts The Seedkeepers (2005), and The Women in Blue Berets (2012).