The Karbi are a Tibeto-Burman tribal community who live in the Garbhanga forest in northeastern India. Their older children go to boarding schools in the nearby city of Guwahati, which provide free education for underprivileged children from the villages in the area. Fourteen-year-old Gautam is one of them.
The short film My Courtyard was shot during the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the lockdown, Gautam is confined to his dorm. Meanwhile, his mother, whom he tries to call despite poor telephone reception, is worried about his sister; the school in the village has been closed for ten months and the children have been left to their own devices. Gautam’s sister spends her time hanging out with friends in the village and the forest.
In mysterious, shadowy black-and-white, the film not only offers a fascinating glimpse into village life, but also addresses inequality. Where other children have lessons online, that isn’t an option in this impoverished environment. During the pandemic, the children’s disadvantage only increases.