SITA, A GIRL FROM JAMBU (DVD) Image

Kathleen Man’s curious film mixes non-fiction and narrative devices to examine the traffic in child sex slaves between Nepal and India. The film is rooted in a street theater performance by young girls who are part of a Nepalese child protection agency, and their show follows the tragic fate of a village child who is lured away from her rural home into enslavement in a Mumbai brothel.

The film then abruptly switches to a narrative production, shot on location in rural Nepal. During the course of the production, Man switches back and forth between formats. The result is somewhat confusing, and it’s a shame Man didn’t decide to stay with one particular version – the documentary would’ve provided more insight regarding the child protection activities of the agency sponsoring the street show, while a straightforward dramatic film would’ve given the story more depth and scope.

In its hybrid state, nothing quite works: the melodramatic street show doesn’t seem to get its point across, if the smiling audience is any indication, while the narrative tale feels sketchy and incomplete, with weak and unconvincing performances by the nonprofessional cast.

Further complicating matters is the awkward 47-minute running time – it shortchanges both the gravity of the subject and the ability to tell a story in proper emotional force.

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