With Morning Hearts
This remarkable new documentary by renowned ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall continues his long-term study of the Doon School, India’s most prestigious boys’ boarding school. Sometimes called “the Eton of India,” Doon School has nevertheless developed its own characteristic style and presents a curious mixture of privilege and egalitarianism.
With great sensitivity to social, material, and aesthetic details and a keen eye for significant moments of interaction and emotion, “With Morning Hearts” focuses on a group of twelve-year-olds during their first year in one of the “houses” for new boys. The film explores the boys’ attachment to the house but, more importantly, their attachment to one another in a communal life. It follows, in particular, the experiences of one boy and several of his close associates, from their initial homesickness, to their life as members of the group, to their separation from the house at the end of the year.
The film’s title is taken from a school prayer:
Call us up with morning faces And with morning hearts, Eager to labour, eager to be happy If happiness shall be our portion, And if the day be marked for sorrow, Strong to endure it.
Doon school was established by a group of Indian nationalists in the 1930s to produce a new generation of leaders who would guide the nation after Independence. Since then it has become highly influential in the creation of the new Indian elites and has come to epitomize many aspects of Indian postcoloniality.
Along with “Doon School Chronicles,” “With Morning Hearts” is a revelatory cultural portrait that will take its place among the classics of ethnographic cinema. It will stimulate discussion and analysis in a wide array of classes in cultural anthropology, Asian and Indian studies, visual anthropology, education and childhood studies, and post-colonial studies.
Note: The DVD version of the film is fully authored, with menus and chapter markers put in by the filmmaker. It also features optional closed captions, which the VHS version does not have.