For most people, playing frisbee might be an activity associated with family picnics. But its more aggressive twin, better known as ultimate frisbee, has been making its presence felt on Marina beach in Chennai for the past few years. A group of boys and girls from the city in their late teens have not only been popularising this sport, but also using it as an opportunity for empowering underprivileged children.
A film on the lives of these teenagers titled 175 Grams was screened at the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival, USA. “We heard of this fascinating group of individuals from Chennai who were using ultimate frisbee to benefit the community and help teenagers to improve their lifestyle. We decided to highlight their stories and use them as an example for others in the community,” says independent filmmaker Bharat Mirle, whose eight-minute short film was part of the Short Film Challenge organised by the Sundance Film Institute. Bangalore-based Mirle’s film was among the five winners in this section from across the world, and each were given a cash prize of US $ 10,000.
The sport of Ultimate Frisbee, also known as Ultimate, originated in the US in 1966, when a group of college students decided to invent a sport on the same lines as American football, but a less aggressive one. Ultimate comprises two teams with seven players each side, and the objective is to pass the frisbee to their teammate, on the other end of the field, without getting it intercepted. Mirle and his co-director Arvind Iyer met with an Ultimate Frisbee team in Chennai called Flywild and followed their players through their frisbee sessions on Marina beach. The team, comprising youngsters from the neighbouring slums, is an initiative in preventing youngsters from indulging in wrong practices. The team participates in competitions in Chennai and other cities. “The team is for anyone who wants to play the sport, not particularly slum children. But when children from the slums get a chance to play with others from different backgrounds, they feel equal and feel they have a chance at a better life,” says 27-year-old Mirle, a graduate of Mass Media from Christ College, Bangalore, who has previously made three documentaries.
175 Grams, which denotes the weight of a frisbee was made by his own production house Yogensha Productions especially for the Sundance Short Film Challenge. The criteria for this section was a film that is eight-minutes long; addresses a socially-conscious audience and looks at a group of individuals who are overcoming poverty. “If it weren’t for the Sundance Institute challenge, this film would not have been born. We tailor-made this film to meet the needs of the competition,” adds Mirle, whose film was selected out of 1,300 entries in the challenge. For now the film will be kept with the Sundance Institute archives.