REVIEW: Rooting For Roona (2020)
Something that I rarely bring up is that I am disabled, specifically with my mobility. While I am not a wheelchair user, my medical condition makes some tasks difficult to achieve. I was born with Hydrocephalus, (excess fluid pressure on the brain) which can affect people differently. In my case, the condition was treated quickly and, so, is an ‘invisible disability’; if you were to look at me, you wouldn’t see anything noticeable…until I start walking around. However, it can cause serious brain damage if not treated quickly and can lead to death if neglected for too long.
Because I have an invisible disability, it’s often difficult to explain to other people what my condition is and how it affects me personally. Which is why I am really grateful that Rooting for Roona was added to Netflix.
Rooting for Roona is a Netflix Original documentary, directed by Pavitra Chalam and Akshay Shankar. It follows the journey of Roona Begum – an Indian girl who was born with Hydrocephalus, which caused her head to double in size, due to excess fluid not being drained by medical professionals. In 2017, however, a photo was taken of her which captured the attention of social media and doctors around the world.
It’s strange but uplifting to see a documentary finally highlight this rare medical condition, but also eye-opening to see the extreme, and deadly, effects of the condition if left untreated. Admittedly, information about Hydrocephalus (other than what is given to me by doctors) is something I never look up because I have rarely needed to. Therefore, it’s interesting to view a new perspective on the condition. And, for people who may not be aware of the condition, it’s easy to understand when watching the documentary. Text onscreen at the start of the film tells viewers what the condition is, but it then goes on to show the effects and treatment of the condition via powerful imagery.
As well as telling viewers about the rare condition in an easy-to-understand way, it also does a fantastic job at tracking Roona’s journey, from her birth to her untimely, and unfortunately, death. Complications are highlighted not only with the condition, but also with the surgeries involved. Surgical procedures are expensive and, if it weren’t for the media attention that this story gained, the progress with draining the excess fluid would’ve taken a lot longer than it already did.
However, that isn’t an excuse to ignore the fact that they waited two years before performing the last surgery. It’s unfortunate, but the documentary remains unbiased, explaining why the wait was that long. The mother, Fatima Begum, wants her daughter to lead a normal life and stays hopeful that she’ll survive, while the father is worried that Roona will not be able to lead a normal life after the operations. Given the community they live in, mixed with the surgery expenses plus their doubts, it makes sense that this issue occurred but, ultimately, no one can be blamed.
Other interviews from doctors, relatives and other members of their community highlight how supportive they are of each other. I would go as far to say that some communities in the Western world could learn a few things from how Fatima and Roona are treated by their community. They’re never badly treated or seen as bad people. They are supported and cared for and just want what’s best for Roona. And, when the story caught worldwide attention, the love and care for Roona was clear.
Overall, Rooting for Roona is a fantastic 40-minute documentary revolving around an incredible story, that I’m extremely glad has been told. Hydrocephalus may be a rare condition, but it can still affect babies from around the world and this documentary highlights that this condition exists and that it should not be ignored. It’s also a story of a mother’s and community’s love and what people will do to make sure someone’s life is better, by any means possible. I would highly recommend this documentary; some of the imagery is shocking, but it’s important to see films like this, and to have films that, not only document a person’s medical journey, but also puts a rare medical condition into the limelight.