Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire depicts children dwelling in the utmost of impoverished hellscapes. The film used actual slum kids, but don't worry they weren't exploited! Cuz they're totally getting houses now! They'll be just fine.
After they were sent on a whirlwind tour of Disneyland and Universal Studios on Oscar weekend, the real-life Mumbai slum kids, who, really, are the movie (sorry Dev and Freida), faced the prospect of returning to their homes, situated near open sewers or consisting of one rotten mattress shared by the whole family. But now Danny Boyle, the film's director, along with one of the producers, has announced that the kids and their families will be moved into apartments worth about £20,000 (that's seven hundred billion American dollars). Then the government said "fuck it, let's give 'em houses" because they're national heroes and, careful, white people are looking—some say it's a political maneuver done in a lead-up to elections, but whatever. The kids will also have trusts set up in their names and be provided with guaranteed rickshaw transportation (seriously) between home and school. The hope being, of course, that they'll get a proper education.
So, yeah, good. I guess. It reminds us of those poor kids in The Kite Runner—that film about hope and dreams and Afghanistan and kites. They were plucked from obscurity in Kabul, then threatened with death after the film was released, partly because one of their characters was raped in the film. Then Paramount swooped in and saved the day, ferrying the children to a new life in Dubai, estranging them from their parents. There was a small outcry—they rarely get very loud when they're about poor brown Muslims—and people demanded that since Paramount had exploited them in pursuit of really authenticity, they owed it to the children to support them in whatever way they required. That was two years ago, though, and now we don't really hear anything about those lost people.
And now it looks as though the Slumdog kids are getting the same worried, hand-wringing treatment. An NGO worth about £500,000 is being set up by the producers and distributors of the film to help all the children of Mumbai's disastrous slums. And I guess there really isn't any other answer here, other than that in the end, Danny Boyle and the rest will go home, and will have to hang up their hopes for these kids on some out-of-the-way hook. So they can keep on with their lives. Because what else can you do. As my boss said, at least Boyle and company didn't blind the kids before putting them to work. No, they left them young and cute and opened a strange side door to a new, tenuous future.
Image of Rubina Ali from AP