Virtual Reality experience places viewers inside the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan

From 1-8 August 2022 BFI Expanded presents the London premiere of CHILD OF EMPIRE, an animated Virtual Reality journey through the largest forced migration in human history, the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan.

Taking audiences through a deeply personal perspective of this epic historical event, the free installation at BFI Southbank is presented by BFI Expanded, the BFI’s year-round programme strand dedicated to immersive art and extended realities (XR).

August 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent and the emergence of India and Pakistan as independent nation-states. British colonialism came to an end and the confrontation between the two nations led to the displacement of some 15 million people and the tragic death of more than 1 million.

CHILD OF EMPIRE takes audiences through this critical moment in history, following the stories of two men from the Partition generation — Ishar Das Arora (voiced by Adil Hussain), an Indian Hindu who migrated from Pakistan to India, and Iqbal-ud-din Ahmed (voiced by Salman Shahid), a Pakistani Muslim who made the opposite journey — who each share childhood memories of their experiences while playing a board game.

As the two men unpack their memories, audiences embody the experience of a seven year old child at key points in the migration. CHILD OF EMPIRE places viewers at the heart of the experience, offering a powerful counter-narrative and a fresh perspective on the devastating effects of forced migration on everyday individuals.

The world premiere of LOST MIGRATIONS, a powerful three-part animation that ruminates on the impact of the Partition, also premieres at BFI Southbank on 1 August 2022. Shining a light on stories from communities that have been excluded from South Asian literature and historiography: women, the Chettiar diaspora and the stateless, the animation showcases the diverse voices of the subcontinent and celebrates the individuality of each community.

Sparsh Ahuja, CHILD OF EMPIRE co-creator, said: “75 years after their migrations, Partition remains a deeply personal experience for my two grandfathers (Ishar and Jagdish) who directly inspired this film. By highlighting the similarities of migration journeys on either side of the border, Child of Empire is a reminder that it is ordinary people that suffer the most when nationalisms are created and torn apart by political elites.

“This film is a challenge to the divisive communalism that unfortunately plagues the subcontinent today. As a child of diaspora, I have come to understand that the important stories of migration are not those of the politics that dictate it, but the people it uproots.”

Both CHILD OF EMPIRE and LOST MIGRATIONS form part of Project Dastaan (داستان‎/दास्तान: “Story”), a peace-building initiative which examines the human impact of global migration through the lens of the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan.

CHILD OF EMPIRE had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival as part of the ‘New Frontier’ programming slate. It was presented in the Alternate Realities strand at the 2022 Sheffield Doc/Fest and was previously selected for the Venice Film Festival’s Gap Financing Market, hosted as part of the 2020 Biennale.

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