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On behalf of Downtown, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new film Lion with the Moms Network, and participate in a talkback session with Nicole Kidman and eight-year old Sunny Pawar at the Park Avenue Screening Room with Nature’s Made and Stop & Shop. Over 50 bloggers and media attended the event and the film was well-received by the audience.

The film — and potential Oscar nominee — Lion stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and newcomer Sunny Pawar. The film is based on Saroo Brierley’s memoir A Long Way Home, which is the true story of his search for his roots and his childhood home. The film originally debuted at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Lion follows the true story of a five-year old Indian boy, who accidentally travels almost 2,000 miles from home and becomes lost in India. Eventually, he finds his way to Australia by way of adoption. The harrowing story of his journey, his realization that he may never see his family again and the tragedy that he witnesses and lives is heartbreaking. But the story of strength, resolution and doggedness will win your heart. 25 years after he is adopted, he realizes that he wants to find his family and find his way home.

Nicole Kidman / Photo: Jonathan B

Nicole Kidman / Photo: Jonathan B

Though it is a challenge for many reasons, but the most challenging is that he is not quite sure where he came from, as he had traveled via train for days and only has vague memories of places and events, from his young childhood. The film is a cinematic masterpiece and the score is incredible. But, the heart of the story is about family and the importance of never giving up. There are certainly harrowing scenes and depictions of life in India that are difficult to watch. But, the positive message of the film and the story of love, truly makes this a movie to see.

Kidman spoke about reading the script and identifying with the theme of adoption. She said as a young girl, she always knew that adoption would be in her future and is the adoptive mother of two kids, who are now grown up. She also has two children that are her biological children and she shared some funny anecdotes about her young children and their dinner choices. According to Kidman, her kids can eat pasta every night, much to her chagrin.

The Moms, Denise Albert and Melissa Musen Gerstein, with Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar / Photo: Jonathan B

The Moms, Denise Albert and Melissa Musen Gerstein, with Nicole Kidman and Sunny Pawar / Photo: Jonathan B

Sunny Pawar plays the young boy and he is an absolute scene stealer. It is his first film role and when he met the cast, he did not speak any English. He bonded with his on-screen mother, played by Nicole Kidman, by playing the game of cricket, in between scenes, that eventually made their way onto the big screen. It was his first visit to New York and he was asked about his favorite experiences. His response that Times Square and the Disney Store were his favorites elicited a lot of laughs from the crowd. He is clearly in unfamiliar territory in the United States, but his father is traveling with him on the press junket and seem truly mesmerized by the experience.

The movie was filmed in India, Tasmania and Australia. According to industry insiders, it is the biggest film production to take place in Australia. The cinematic photography, coupled with an incredible film score, help create an atmosphere of beauty, all the while, never allowing the viewer to forget the dire situation that Saroo is in. The film is able to demonstrate some of the horrific conditions and situations that the main character faces, but also jumps forward twenty years later, to witness the successful adult that Saroo has become. It is a story of family, love and perseverance and is already nominated for several awards.

Beyond her work with Downtown, Denise Courter is the founder of FiDi Families, which can be visited online at www.fidifamilies.com.

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