‘Son of a Sweeper’ Documentary Screening and Discussion

Frame from “Son of a Sweeper,” courtesy Lisa Mills.


The India Center at UCF hosted Vimal Kumar, Ph.D., for an in-person screening and discussion of the documentary film Son of a Sweeper on Sept. 13, 2022. The film, made by Professor Lisa Mills, Ph.D., an India Center affiliate faculty member, highlights the work of Kumar, founder of the nongovernmental organization Movement for Scavenger Community (MSC).  Mills, along with two Nicholson School of Communication and Media graduate students, shot the film in India, where they documented the daily lives of sweeper communities and met Kumar. The film was recognized as Best Short Documentary at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival in 2020.

Son of a Sweeper details the harsh and often life-threatening working conditions faced by the sweeper and scavenging communities in India who manually empty latrines and sweep garbage from streets.  The film also showcases Kumar’s efforts to alleviate the societal pressure on these communities. Kumar describes himself as a “son of a sweeper.” MSC runs education centers that  provide academic and social instruction to the children of sweepers. The goal is improving their social and economic mobility. In the film, Kumar shares his own experiences as a member of the sweeper community and how they paved the way for his work today. While he was mocked at school for being a child of a sweeper, he made it his goal to seek further education and commit his life to improving the situation of others who share his background

Following the film screening, Mills led an audience Q&A with Kumar, who was visiting from India.  He discussed how he remains hopeful and continues his work even when faced with challenges. Additionally, Mills spoke with the audience about the film-making process, explaining how the team traveled by train, taxi and ferry for three weeks to get hours of footage, often using a phone as a camera, and the technical challenges involved in combining footage from a professional camera and a smart phone camera.  Mills and Kumar recounted their time together in India and noted that some important recorded moments could not be incorporated into the final version of the film due to time constraints.  At the conclusion of the Q&A session, an audience member inquired how “outsiders” can help the movement. Kumar explained that people should understand the issues, understand the Indian caste system and support the education of the sweeper communities by volunteering to teach subjects like English.


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