Professor creates "Written in Stone" documentary

File Under: Academic Excellence

Film spotlights use of child labor in India

Sangsun Choi, assistant professor of media production, is inspired to make documentaries to give a voice to those who often go unheard. 

His newest film, Written in Stone, sheds light on the lives of laboring children at a stone quarry village in India. The part of post-production was supported by Malone’s Summer Scholars Grant last year and the finished product will be screened at several prestigious film festivals this spring. 

“For me, making a documentary means finding the story of vulnerable people with my eyes, ears, and body by immersing myself in the social circumstance of human life,” said Choi. “My philosophy as a documentary filmmaker can be summarized by Proverbs 31:8: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute."

According to the 2011 national census of India, the total number of child workers is about 4.35 million. Most cannot escape their harsh working environment and their future is "written in stone" even before they become teenagers. The documentary shows not only the child laborers’ hardship but also their beautiful innocence that should to be nurtured by adults. 

“'Matthew 18:5 says ‘Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me’. This Christocentric perspective on children is a central worldview of the story, and I hope that Written in Stone will help audiences understand how we view a child laborer’s life,” Choi said.

When Choi met the child laborers and their families in India, he encountered their harsh environment and the witnessed the children's vulnerability. They are left with no way out of the quarry and had a huge debt that they could never repay. 

“At that time, all I could do for them was recording their story through my camera. I didn't want to be a bystander but a witness who made a voice for them,” Choi said. “After I left India, it wasn't an easy journey for me to finish the project due to numerous obstacles. However, with the support of Korean producers (Rod Pictures) and the Malone community, I have an opportunity to show the work to many audiences in the world. I want to invite them to social participation about child laborers by opening their hearts through the story.”

The film will be screened at the following film festivals this spring:

  • American Documentary Film Festival, March 29-April 4  (an Oscar-qualifying film festival)
  • Athens International Film & Video Festival, April 8-14  (a top-tier festival in the United States)
  • Rochester International Film Festival, May 9-11  (Movies on a Shoestring Trophy Award)
  • Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. March 28-31 (Choi received a travel grant by Sebastopol Center for the Arts)
  • Canton Film Festival April 26-28   (One of the finalists for the best documentary short films)