Many people from the United States have never even heard the term “eunuch,” but Louisiana producer Shanna Forrestall met a family of eunuchs in India years ago whose story changed her life. Now one of her current video projects is a “teaser” video aimed at raising awareness for this underserved people group in India.
Shanna Forrestall with the Eunuchs in India
Alex Willson shooting footage in Mumbai
“In 2004 a ‘modern day Mother Teresa’ named Myra Fernandes who works with the poor and indigent in India introduced me to a family of eunuchs,” said Forrestall. “I had met a few eunuchs before in India, but had never been introduced to the unique challenges and needs of these people. Meeting these beautiful individuals and spending the day with them changed my life forever, and I determined to find a way to help them.”
In 2011 Forrestall brought a team of Louisiana filmmakers to India to work on a non-profit project called Enter Namaste. The team was there to shoot a video documentary and commercial to assist in raising awareness and funding for a series of schools for disabled children in southern India. While there, she entreated her team members to help acquire footage of her friends, a family of eunuchs living in the outskirts of Mumbai (Bombay).
The team discovered that the eunuchs in India are treated almost sub-human, and until as recently as one to two years ago had no basic rights to vote, get married, claim unemployment, etc., in India because these castrated males who dress as females could not be classified as a man or woman to complete government paperwork.
After video footage of this rare group shot by Alex Willson and Han Soto (both of New Orleans) was brought back to Louisiana, Forrestall was on the hunt for someone to help her edit and finalize the video. Forrestall and her project assistant, Andrew Vogel, put an ad on Craigslist seeking someone with a compassionate heart to help.
Vogel notes, “Craigslist isn’t always the best place to find quality help, but we lucked out finding Kendal. He’s got a lot to offer and ended up being the missing link to the project.”
Kendal Odom of I.D.D.O. Productionz volunteered his time to research the eunuchs of India and edit the footage using original music created and donated by Johnny Burgard, a local composer.
More information on the Eunuchs:
Eunuchs have been in existence since the 9th Century BC. These castrated males traditionally served as guardians of the royal harems, but their role in society has drastically changed.
Many believe that eunuchs or “hijras” as they are called are born with no genitalia, but in truth, natural born eunuchs are a rare occurrence, and countless numbers are forcibly created.
Considering themselves neither men nor women, members of this so-called ‘third sex’ generally adopt feminine names and dress and are traditionally referred to as ‘she.’ As a result of their sexual crisis and physical deformities, many eunuchs are rejected by their family and left isolated by society.
Typically feared by the masses, eunuchs are not given the opportunity to work in traditional jobs. Instead, they are forced to make their living by other means, and some beg or bully for money, while others turn to prostitution.
It is a widely accepted belief that the eunuchs have spiritual powers, so their blessings and curses are both considered potent. The eunuchs are a creative group of individuals, with talents in music and dance, and some are able to subsidize their income by performing and offering blessings at childbirths, weddings, housewarmings and other auspicious events.
But, unable to be classified as men or women, the eunuchs have been left with limited rights and virtually no support from their own government. Until recently, eunuchs were denied even basic human rights like the right to vote, marry, own a ration card, a driver’s license, or to claim unemployment or health benefits, so many live in severe poverty with no family, community or societal support.
The eunuchs are talented and important individuals who are just beginning to receive the recognition and respect they deserve. You can support their journey by sharing this announcement to raise awareness.
For more information about the project, visit www.lafilmresources.com.